Justice in South Africa: Are we becoming a banana republic part II

Following my previous article on convenience justice and South Africa there has been a lot of other developments in the country in particular in the political scene. Amongst other things Julius Malema is being formally investigated for his business dealings, and as I pen this article, his disciplinary hearing is making headlines. In addition to all this Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo has retired as the highest judge in the land, leaving the seat of chief Justice of the country vacant and which must be filled within a certain time frame after following a meticulous process as outlined in the constitution of the Republic. As most things that are in the public interest everyone had something to say and those who have a platform even better for them.

However to come to my point, a number of interest groups feel that Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is not fit to be the highest judge in the land citing, amongst other things, a lack of experience on the bench and presiding over very complex matters and delivering what one news paper article called “weighty judgements”. In addition another burning issue is the nominee’s views on homosexuals and women’s rights. The last outcry has been regarding the necessity for the process to be followed sufficiently as it is argued by one newspaper article that the president did not allow sufficient time for consultation and is therefore imposing his candidate which thing is not healthy for our young democracy. The above mentioned issues apparently make the current nominee to be weak to can be considered for the position of Chief Justice. Now to consider each argument it is clear that there is some credibility on the argument that Justice Mogoeng does not have sufficient experience as compared to the other judges that could have been considered for the job. The nominee’s lack of experience therefore is something that should disqualify him. Turning to the issue of his religious views and his views on women, I want to ask the question: Does it then mean people who hold certain views must never be allowed to serve country in certain capacities? Is that on its own right not counter-constitutional? And to think these views are held by people who claim to be protecting the constitution is very interesting. On the question of the consultation process, the president should have taken time to consult sufficiently on the candidate, but ultimately people still need to understand that he has the final say as to who will be nominated. That therefore means even if interest groups and political parties do not like his choice, the candidate will still be nominated.

However for me I think we need to cut through the clutter and ask two very important questions for the future of the judiciary and the rule of law in this country. These questions are: Are the interest groups speaking in the interest of South Africa or are they just upset that their preferred candidates were sidelined and their agenda’s are at stake. The second question which is even more interesting is: Why did the president choose the candidate that he did choose? Well most of us know that famous birthday party of the deputy chief justice and the utterances that he made at the said event and therefore I am not surprised that some interest groups would have liked for him to be the next chief justice as in my view they feel that he would be able to bring much needed balance and discipline to the erratic individuals that are the leaders of the ruling party in particular its secretary general and his sometimes irresponsible statements. Having said that this has not happened so what do the interest groups do they cry foul and look for evidence they can use to strengthen to garner more support and that the candidate was not the strongest possible one only played to their favour. Add that to the fact that he has made some miscalculated judgements regarding women in his time and the fire has the fuel it needed, but I wonder why the ANC Women’s league does not see a problem with him? So is it the women rights thing or is it just sour grapes? And since when does the ANC women’s league depend on outsiders to tell it which causes it must champion? My conclusion is the pro capitalism interest groups with a holier than attitude must just accept their loss or find another way to achieve their objectives.

Turning to my second question, I am still failing to understand how the president had justified his decision on the nomination to others, let alone to himself. It is my view based on the historic relationship of the president and the courts that somewhere at the back of his mind he always thought with each court appearance that one day when I am president. I will make sure that I am powerful enough never to be humiliated like this by being drawn to a court, so the first step in doing so is to weaken the system by staffing critical positions with weak people who will not have the guts to stand up to the misdemeanours that are being perpetuated by certain powerful and connected people. In addition to being weak I am almost certain that those given opportunities like this which they had never dreamed of having will forever be grateful to the one who presented them such so they feel obliged to be loyal to him irrespective.

To conclude, I think that our judicial system is being weakened and the fact that those who are speaking out are perceived to be counter revolutionary is not helping as they will never be listened to. So to solve this one of two things must happen, there must be a very clear voice of direction inside the ruling party which will never be afraid to speak the truth no matter who gets upset. Secondly an alternative is the rise of the man on the street to begin to fight for what is right and cause a stir that will get the attention of the powers that be and remind them that they still account to people who have put them in power and therefore must act to protect the interest of the same people. The first option which will be rather faster in my view though currently seems to have no place in this generation of the ANC leadership which continuously demonstrates that it wants to lead and can only lead yes men and women who possess no mind of their own. The current charges against Julius Malema are a case in point as it is clear to any politically savvy South African that Malema is being charged so that he is not a force in Mangaung and because he is not agreement with certain individuals in positions of power. I know some people have called him a “despot” as one columnist from a popular Sunday news paper said but Malema largely still represents someone who is not afraid to speak his mind and refuses to be a yes man.

In the end South Africa, this is our country and this is our government we must decide what happens in it. In the same vein I hope history will not judge this current generation of citizens harshly for failing to respond when the moment beckoned.

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Joel Maine

Joel Maine is a full time minister, scholar and a part time business consultant. In his spare time he enjoys working with community development organizations to improve the lives of the less fortunate. It is his deep conviction that it is the time for African's to make an impact in the world and take a leadership role in all spheres.

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