The outgoing ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee (PEC) has taken aim at the judiciary in its organisational report — delivered by former provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli — by calling some judges inconsistent and influenced by factors beyond the environment of the courts.
The party is hosting its provincial conference in Durban, with Cyril Ramaphosa expected to deliver the closing address on Sunday in his capacity as ANC president.
In the report, which focused on the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma and its effect on the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, Ntuli pointed to an emerging attitude among the governing party’s national leaders in which criticism of the judiciary was viewed with suspicion.
“It is disturbing that the judiciary seems not to have transformed beyond employment equity as some judgments meted out are viewed to be more lenient to certain segments of our country,” Ntuli said.
The report states that such conduct was noted by the 53rd national conference.
There was a strong view, according to the report, that the judiciary was overstepping, undermining other arms of the state and using the law based on feelings instead of facts.
“It is in this context that the PEC publicly challenged the position of the judiciary when Zuma was incarcerated without a fair trial in spite of the Freedom Charter — an ANC loadstar document pronounced in 1955 — saying that no one shall be imprisoned, deported or restricted without fair trial.”
According to the report, the credibility and legitimacy of the judicial system rested on how the institution was viewed by society and on the manner in which decisions were made.
Ntuli noted in the report that public criticism of court decisions was often met with outrage, despite there being supporting evidence that in a constitutional democracy such criticism was permissible.
Some ANC leaders, including the late deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte and national executive committee (NEC) member Lindiwe Sisulu, have been chastised for criticising the judiciary, with the latter having received a dressing down from Ramaphosa after she wrote a column “attacking” the institution.
Frowning on criticism “is a betrayal of the revolutionary task attendant to the ANC as a pre-eminent leader of social transformation of the country”, according to the report.
The outgoing provincial leadership’s report also took aim at the ANC’s NEC.
“It is our considered view that in many respects serious threats of destruction facing the ANC emanate from acts of commission and omission from the national leadership.”
The report pointed to a weak NEC — including the public conduct of individual members — which it said had consciously and deliberately acted to undermine unity and cohesion, and did so with impunity.
“The conduct of these NEC members cultivates and entrenches a culture of impunity that directly contradicts conference resolutions on unity and renewal, let alone its strategic missions to serve our people.
“When all of these negative things happen, the question naturally arising is: Where is our leadership? Where is the national executive committee and the national officials who are at the heart of day-to-day running of the ANC?”
The document also raises concern over the government’s classification of the July 2021 unrest as being a failed insurrection, and instead classifies it as counter-revolution.
It argues that the failure of all state security agencies to pre-empt and act with urgency to prevent or deter the violence and looting “must not be hidden under the wrong characterisation of the situation”.
“The ANC provincial leadership expressed deep concern with the national narratives which started and evolved from characterising the situation as a coup, ethnic mobilisation and later insurrection, which is designed to topple the ANC led government at the helm of Ramaphosa.”
The report says it was a number of blunders by Zuma, the judiciary and the ANC that triggered the unrest.
The provincial leaders noted that Zuma’s refusal to respect the constitutional court decision compelling him to appear before the Zondo commission, which led to his arrest for contempt of court, could have been avoided.
The report also said that Chief Justice Raymond Zondo had contaminated the judicial process. It accused Zondo of “abusing the judiciary” by directly approaching the constitutional court to compel Zuma to appear before the commission.
The majority concourt judgment had created a “Zuma law”, according to the report, that was in violation of all applicable laws and international laws. Added to this, the “combative” language of that judgment was indicative of a departure from accepted procedure which had led to a decision fuelled by emotion.
Zuma had been hung out to dry, according to the report, and “wittingly or unwittingly” had been projected “as the face of corruption and everything wrong that happened in the ANC and government” without the party trying to aggressively combat the “wrong” narrative that his presidency had been “nine wasted years”.
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