President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged South Africans to “safeguard” against efforts to weaken the country’s democracy, including “attacks on the independence and integrity of the judiciary.”
Ramaphosa made the call in his weekly letter to the nation on Monday (17 January), his first in 2022.
The President cited several events that have happened in January so far that “reminded us, in different ways, of what brings us together as a people,” including the passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Parliament fire and the release of the Zondo Commission’s first report.
“The things that we have read in the Zondo Commission report should strengthen our resolve to defend the institutions of our democracy, all the entities of our state and, indeed, our democratic constitutional order,” he said.
“We must safeguard against any and all efforts to diminish our hard-won democracy – whether these efforts take the form of corruption in state owned enterprises, the subversion of our law enforcement agencies, the sabotage of our economic infrastructure, or attacks on the independence and integrity of our judiciary.
“We need to protect our Constitution, our democratic state and the electoral process from anyone who wants to weaken our democracy and deny the South African people of their hard-won freedom.”
Lindiwe Sisulu’s article
Ramaphosa’s comments come in the wake of the controversy sparked by Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s recent article in which she appeared to blame the Constitution, rule of law and judiciary for the slow progress of transformation in South Africa.
In the article, Sisulu referred to politicians and people “in the high echelons of our judicial system” as “house negroes” and “mentally colonised Africans.”
Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo subsequently slammed Sisulu’s comments as an “attack” on the judiciary and an “insult” on judges.
DA leader John Steenhuisen has also called on Ramaphosa to “instruct” Sisulu to “retract and issue a public apology for undermining the judiciary and casting aspersions on its integrity.”
The Minister’s article came in the wake of previous attacks on judges, often without substantiation. Last year, former President Jacob Zuma claimed that a “judicial dictatorship” was emerging in South Africa.
EFF leader Julius Malema also claimed, without evidence, that some judges had received bribes from Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign.