FIRE THE GATEKEEPERS |
The unfortunate situation regarding the debacle around failing to have the former Chief Justice Ngcobo’s appointment succeeding should be placed squarely at the door of the legal advisors in the offices of the Minister of justice and Constitutional Development and those in the Presidency.
If all ten judges of the Constitutional Court found the decision to extend Justice Ngcobo’s tenure as Chief Justice by using the sub-clause the President has been harping on all along to be unconstitutional, a serious law student would have noted that unless they gratify the interests of the president.
These public servants could have avoided a situation where the highest office in the land is left with egg on the face. They left the matter until it was too late to try to come with a bill to circumvent the obviously flawed advice they gave to the president.
It did not matter how often the president emphasized that he used an existing piece of legislation to arrive at that conclusion. He and they know as well as we all do that laws passed by parliament are quite often struck as unconstitutional. Even recently the president referred to such striking when he addressed judges at a conference convened by the outgoing Chief Justice.
It must be noted that Justice Ngcobo is not to blame especially as he declined the offer, though after much water had flown below the bridge.
There are however other blunders committed in the office of the President and hence the call for the review of the continued retention of the advisors.
One such incident is when the President was found not to have declared his assets in the 2009/2010 financial year. It looks like the same thing is about to happen this year as word has it that there is a breach of the ethics in not having declared gifts, business interests and assets of spouses. This again, if true, should have been avoided.
No one is indispensable and President Zuma should have known better as he ascended to the presidency of his party on the same basis. Leadership is a relay race. One covers a distance and leaves the other part of the field to other athletes.
In a democracy we should avoid passing legislation to suit some people for better or worse. While we hated Vorster’s General Amendment Laws Act No 37 of 1963 on Robert Sobukwe, we should not go dancing for a similar clause which is meant to idolize one individual above others.
More often than not, members of the ruling party boast on how they strove to carve the constitution, but surely it was not meant to be turned around at their pleasure.
The term of service for judges was determined after much soul searching and we agree with the decision of the constitutional judges “non-renewability” of a judge’s term should be considered as the yardstick to ensure confidence in the judiciary.
We maintain that with the teams of legal advisors in each government department and in some cases even in ministers’ offices we should not be having the bungles like those surrounding the Department of Public Works around the leasing of buildings for police.
People dealing with law should live up to the phrase “legal eagles”, knowing how an eagle goes about with its business.
Sent by: Sipho Mfundisi
Deputy President: UCDP
Cell: 083 469 3473