The judiciary’s proactive stance has won the day for the centrality of the South African constitution in our democracy.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng made it very clear that all arms of government should exercise brutal introspection in the interest of our constitutional democracy. He welcomed constructive criticism but he was firm on the need for rational argument in support of such criticism. Generalised and gratuitous criticism of the judiciary of the type frequently mounted by Blade Nzimande will now require the President to slap him down.
Respect for the constitution has to prevail and all arms of government should work to ensure such respect. The mindless denigration of the judiciary is inimical to constitutional democracy. Government must now heed the agreement in all circumstances.
Congress of the People is thrilled that the judiciary has succeeded in getting government to accept that it will act on court orders and to abide by them. If this had not happened, we would have had a constitutional crisis. We see the clear commitment that President Zuma gave on this matter as the most significant outcome of the meeting.
We agree that this meeting was indeed of historic importance. Henceforth the constitution will prevail and the executive will have to tread carefully. It was important to hear President Zuma declare the necessity for all to uphold the rule of law. Now, he must put that into practice without fail and without prevarication.
The Chief Justice was also very firm and very clear about the right of the Judiciary to interpret the Constitution. He asserted that there was no overreach whatsoever on the part of the judiciary. COPE fully agrees with him on this.
Any member of the executive who believes that the judiciary is overreaching itself will have to adduce evidence. Shooting from the hip without making a rational argument will no longer fly.
For years, COPE has been asking the executive and the legislature to adhere to the constitution both in the letter of the law and in spirit.
Now that the two parties formally met and made undertakings carefully captured in the declaration, a compulsion arises on all politicians to abide by the agreement.
The President must lead on this agreement from the front and he must make sure that everyone in government understands the import of the agreement. Those who flout it in any way must face the axe. Otherwise, we will conclude that President Zuma is a hypocrite who says one thing and does something else or alternatively condones his party members breaching the agreement.
COPE will police this agreement with total commitment. We say once again that the judiciary redeems us and keeps our image relatively intact in global society. COPE expresses its deepest appreciation for the manner in which the judiciary stood its ground and the dignified manner in which it won agreement from government for the centrality of our constitution. Hats off to the judiciary!
Issued by Dennis Bloem on behalf of COPE