COSATU's response to South African top lawyers
By Anele Siwa
08 January 2008
The Congress of South African Trade Unions has responded to former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson and George Bizos, who have expressed fears that some statements made around the trial of Jacob Zuma amount to an attack on the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
“The two judges played a valuable role in the struggle for freedom and particularly in the shaping of our democracy and democratic values,” says COSATU National spokesperson, Patrick Craven.
According to Craven the two "legal eagles" made an important contribution to the drafting of South Africa’s constitution and bill of rights, and they fully agree with them that the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive is an essential cornerstone of democracy, which they will defend with their lives if necessary.
“Their views therefore have to be taken seriously,” he added.
“Their concerns about the independence of the judiciary are however directed to the wrong door. COSATU fully supports an independent judiciary and shares the judges’ fears that it is under threat,” says Craven.
Craven believes however that they should not be criticising COSATU, but the people who are manipulating the judicial system for their own political ends.
It has been reported that top South African top lawyer George Bizos and retired Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson have appealed to political parties, their supporters and the media to let the courts decide ANC president Jacob Zuma's outcome.
In a statement signed by both legal gurus, they expressed concern at the tone of the debate around the contemplated trial of Zuma.
They cited their concern about some of the statements that alleges that the judiciary as a whole lacks the independence and integrity to ensure that Zuma will be given a fair trial. They say they do not want to say anything about whether Zuma should be charged or not, but are concerned about the questioning of judicial integrity and independence.
According to Craven, COSATU would have liked to hear the judges express similar concern on the following occasions:
. When the media, on high authority, revealed that the real reason for the suspension of the Director of the National Prosecuting Authority, Vusi Pikoli, was his issuing of a warrant for the search and arrest of Jackie Selebi; COSATU made a call for a judicial inquiry to establish the truth of this, but the two judges did not back this call;
. When the acting director of the NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe, confirmed that when President Mbeki gave him the job, he instructed him to look into “this matter around Jackie Selebi”, then a week later told etv that “[The President] never mentioned the Selebi name to me”.
. When Mpshe was running up and down to judges to cancel the warrant, presumably on the instructions of the executive;
. When the Special Browse Mole Report came to light, indicating that some people in the NPA were hell-bent on throwing mud at the ANC President, Jacob Zuma, which the government at the time denied, and yet which now form part of the charges against him;
. When the NPA spent seven years investigating Jacob Zuma before charging him - a classic case of justice delayed being justice denied;
. When the NPA and the media launched a media trial of Jacob Zuma, and effectively found him guilty in the court of public opinion, without any objection from the two judges.