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Ramaphosa must tell Sisulu to retract and apologise for attack on judiciary: Steenhuisen

Minister of tourism Lindiwe Sisulu has been accused by the DA of launching an unprovoked attack on the judiciary. File photo.
Minister of tourism Lindiwe Sisulu has been accused by the DA of launching an unprovoked attack on the judiciary. File photo.
Image: GCIS

The DA has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to instruct tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu to retract and issue a public apology for “undermining the judiciary and casting aspersions on its integrity”.

Sisulu last week authored an opinion article titled “Hi Mzansi, have we seen justice?”, in which, among other things, she expressed concern about the judiciary.

In the article, Sisulu said: “Today, in the high echelons of our judicial system are these mentally colonised Africans, who have settled with the worldview and mindset of those who have dispossessed their ancestors. They are only too happy to lick the spittle of those who falsely claim superiority. The lack of confidence that permeates their rulings against their own speaks very loudly, while others, secure in their agenda, clap behind closed doors.”

Sisulu called for an overhaul of the justice system which she said does not work for Africans.

DA leader John Steenhuisen on Wednesday said Sisulu's remarks undermined and cast aspersions on the judiciary and she should be ordered to retract and apologise.

“Even if no formal finding of wrongdoing has been made on Sisulu’s remarks, President Ramaphosa has an obligation to protect public trust in the constitutional integrity of other arms of government,” said Steenhuisen.

Sisulu should also be hauled before parliament's ethics committee to be questioned on how she views her attack in relation to the parliamentary code of conduct which calls on MPs to act in accordance with the public trust placed in them.

Steenhuisen said Sisulu had labelled black judges “house Negroes” whose interpretation of the law had no African or Pan African ideological grounding.

Steenhuisen charged that as an incumbent member of the national executive, Sisulu has violated the executive code of ethics by engaging in behaviour inconsistent with her role as a cabinet minister, and violated the principle of separation of powers between the executive and judiciary by insinuating that members of the judiciary were misinterpreting the law to pursue vested agendas.

“Sisulu’s unprovoked attack on the judiciary struck at the heart of our constitutional democracy and created a perception that members of the bench cannot be trusted,” Steenhuisen said.

“When she was appointed to her cabinet post, Sisulu took an oath to ' ... be faithful to the Republic of South Africa and ... obey, respect and uphold the constitution and all other laws of the republic; and ... undertake to hold ... office as minister with honour and dignity.

“Her divisive and race-baiting op-ed on the judiciary means that she has violated her oath and undermined the constitutional principle of separation of powers between the executive and judiciary.”

Steenhuisen fell short of calling for the axing of Sisulu saying she was not fit for cabinet “and anywhere else her job would be on the line”.

“In a functional democracy a member of the executive who launches a calculated and damaging attack on the integrity of the judiciary would be summarily fired by the head of the executive. But we also know that President Ramaphosa demands very little in terms of accountability and ethics from his ministers and is unlikely to take such action.”

He said Ramaphosa should therefore “at the very least” demand a retraction and an apology.

“Failure to do so will leave the generality of South Africans, who were appalled by minister Sisulu’s op-ed, with no option but to conclude that the president of SA condones her actions.”


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