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OPINION | Lindiwe Sisulu’s arrogance is sponsored by the ANC. Don’t forget that.

Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
Image: Trevor Samson

What’s important to keep in mind about Lindiwe Sisulu’s attack on the judiciary is that her behaviour tells us as much about her as it does about the ANC that sponsors her arrogance.

The ANC is very happy, no doubt, to see all of the public criticism narrowly and wholly focusing on Sisulu as an individual member of the ANC, and as a member of the executive. We are mistaken to do so. She has been a political delinquent for a very long time because the organisational culture of the ANC enables such delinquency.

You cannot be annoyed with Sisulu without accepting that voting for the ANC is how you end up with an arrogant Sisulu behaving as if she does you and me a favour by being in politics. The ANC therefore shouldn’t be let off the hook in our analysis of the meltdown of Lindiwe Sisulu.

First, in the unlikely event that you are living under a rock, Sisulu penned a piece last week in which she attacked the rule of law, the constitution and African judges in particular, claiming that they do not serve the justice project. She claims, for example, that “it seems today we have legitimised wrongdoing under the umbrella of the rule of law”.

In possibly the most inflammatory part of her incoherent ramble, she offers the following baseless insult, “The most dangerous African today is the mentally colonised African. And when you put them in leadership positions or as interpreters of the law, they are worse than your oppressor. They have no African or Pan African inspired ideological grounding. Some are confused by foreign belief systems.”

In America, these interpreters are called the House Negroes. It is what the father of black history Carter Woodson strenuously complained about in his famous book The Miseducation of the Negro.

Woodson wrote, “If you control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him to stand here or go yonder, he will find his proper place. You do not need to send him to the back door, he will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit.””

She ends off with rhetorical questions that imply that our jurisprudence is deficient insofar as it does not adequately incorporate pan-Africanist thought. She writes, “We have a neoliberal constitution with foreign inspiration, but who are the interpreters? And where is the African value system of this constitution and the rule of law? If the law does not work for Africans in Africa, then what is the use of the rule of law?”

As acting chief justice Raymond Zondo correctly said in a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon, the article is poor to the extent that these bald claims about the judiciary are not substantiated by facts. One must note, as an aside, that whether the ACJ should have stepped into the public arena to respond to Sisulu is a question about which we can all reasonably disagree. His logical deconstruction of her article, however, is sound. At the heart of this article are insults rather than argument proper. This means that not only has Sisulu managed to attack and insult our judiciary, her article is also an example of poor argumentation. Anyone who is a debate coach can use her article in an exercise with school pupils to see how many fallacies they are able to identify. It may, of course, be too easy an exercise since the article contains a litany of assertions and fuzzy logic.  

 For example, Sisulu does not tell us what parts of the constitutional text or case law based on the constitution, makes it hard or impossible for her government to alleviate poverty in the country. She does what many apologists for the ANC often do, putting the constitution on trial rather than putting the government on trial. Her column is assertive insofar as it does not offer evidential support for this say about the constitution.

The truth, of course, is that the ANC-led government is useless despite the constitution rather than because of the constitution. The constitution does not stop us from dismantling oligopolies. The constitution does not stop us from eliminating the bucket system. The constitution does not stop us from feeding hungry schoolchildren and getting children to school who live very far from the nearest educational facility. The constitution does not stop us from ensuring that every community has primary healthcare facilities. The constitution is conveniently being scapegoated by Sisulu because that is easier to do than to self-examine the endemic corruption within the ANC-led state, and easier to do than to self-examine the lack of ethical leadership within the ANC.

Her claims about the character of African judges are equally fallacious. If you say that someone’s work displays a horrifying bias against black people and is infused with essentially self-hatred, then you should adduce evidence of that philosophical thread running throughout their work. Sisulu gives us no such examples. She does not cite a singular judgment in her favour, for example, let alone analysing it as an exemplar of ‘House Negro’ tendencies. She simply hopes the insult will stick. This is a rhetorical move that is not underpinned by logic. It is really embarrassing that someone as senior in government should be so impoverished in their (in) ability to reason cogently. That alone is reason for her to not be entrusted with massive constitutional responsibility.

There are two final thoughts worth stating. One is the constitutional principle of collective cabinet responsibility. Sisulu, as a long-standing member of the executive, is aware of the legal duty to take collective responsibility for government’s actions and decisions. This column by Sisulu is especially weird because she wrote it as if she is sitting outside government. That means we have a cabinet minister who is now rejecting the basic constitutional foundations of our country. If she thinks the rule of law is not conducive to justice (somehow) and, in addition to that, if she thinks she sits outside the government’s overall locus of decision-making, then she should resign or be fired as is clearly her wish, because the article she penned cannot have discursive legitimacy if she is a member of the cabinet.

Finally, it is worth reiterating the opening nexus point of this analysis piece: the ANC has gifted us Lindiwe Sisulu. Do not only be pissed off with Sisulu for attacking the judiciary. You should also be pissed off with the governing ANC that constantly enables the likes of Sisulu to trample on the constitution. Sisulu is the ANC and the ANC is Sisulu. 

• McKaiser is a contributor and analyst for TimesLIVE


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