The KZN ANC is looking for a scapegoat in the judiciary
The ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal regional executive committee has been reported (Sunday Times, 22 August 2021) as slamming the judiciary, accusing SA’s judges of favouring President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration, while being biased against former President Jacob Zuma.
“It is worth noting that the government and the ANC lost almost all court cases in the period between 2014 to 2019” the report KZN ANC is alleged to say. Justice Ray Zondo also came under attack for “his abuse of the judiciary system by approaching the Con Court directly to force President Zuma to appear before the commission whilst the review application by Zuma is still pending in the high court”.
The assertion that the ANC lost almost all their cases between 2014 and 2019 is an interesting one and deserves closer scrutiny.
The assertion that the ANC lost almost all their cases between 2014 and 2019 is an interesting one and deserves closer scrutiny. In doing so, it is also important to distinguish between cases involving the ANC as a political party, and the ANC as the government. It is certainly a matter of public record that the judiciary have not been quick to overturn decisions of the current administration in relation to COVID and its various regulatory manifestations. The cigarette ban aside, the various iterations of lockdown have survived scrutiny, including the actual framing of the lockdown as a disaster, as opposed to an emergency. These have all been decisions under a Ramaphosa administration, and it may be that the judiciary have been more deferential to the executive in relation to the COVID pandemic response.
The role of our courts
The role of our courts is to serve and administer justice fairly and impartially, which is exactly what our courts have been doing, and continue to do.
In any event, the fact remains that the courts do not summon parties to bring their cases to court for adjudication. Parties file lawsuits in our courts out of their own free will and volition. The role of our courts is to serve and administer justice fairly and impartially, which is exactly what our courts have been doing, and continue to do.
However, it is also an embarrassing truth that both the majority party, the former President, and the government have lost a great many cases. Costs have been awarded against the state, the ANC and former President Zuma on numerous occasions. This was not however because judges sought these cases out. Rather parties were summoned to court by applicants who sought response from the recalcitrant state, on a wide range of issues including social grants, nuclear energy, procurement and pit latrines. Some rogue actors like the Public Protector had to be repeatedly restrained from carrying out remedial action that was in the end set aside because of errors in fact and in law.
Using the courts to resolve internal battles
…the judiciary and individual judges are an easy scapegoat to deflect the very serious legal blunders.
Alternatively, these parties approached the courts to sort out internal battles within political parties that could not apparently be resolved by internal structures. Indeed, many factions of the ANC (including disgruntled members of the KZN ANC, and the suspended secretary Ace Magashule) have taken each other to court to resolve internal disputes.
Given the assertions that the judiciary are bent, biased or politicians in disguise, it is remarkable how frequently actual politicians are applicants in court actions, trying to have various processes stopped or started. You might even think they trusted that they were going to get a fair shake, otherwise, why would they approach the courts in the first place?
We therefore believe that the KZN ANC’s comments must be assessed within the context that it is in the invidious position of supporting a former President Zuma who is often the author of his own legal misfortune. In this context, the judiciary and individual judges are an easy scapegoat to deflect the very serious legal blunders.