By Moshoeshoe Monare
African National Congress President Jacob Zuma - likely to become the country's next president - has blasted the conduct of the judiciary and questioned the supremacy of the Constitutional Court as the highest court in the land, saying it "is not God".
He also accused Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke of declaring war on the ANC, and criticised other judges who, coincidentally, ruled against him in his corruption court appearances.
In an interview with The Star in Durban on Wednesday, Zuma said he wanted a review of the status of the Constitutional Court because its judges were capable of committing mistakes.
"If I sit here and I look at a chief justice of the Constitutional Court, you know, that is the ultimate authority, which I think we need to look at it because I don't think we should have people who are almost like God in a democracy... Why are they not human beings? I don't want to debate that now, but at the right time I'm keen to engage them before the issue becomes public.
"Because... you can have a judge of whatever level making a judgment (and) other judges turning it and saying it was wrong. (This) just tells you they are not necessarily close to God. And therefore we have to look at it in a democratic setting; how do you avoid that?" said Zuma.
He said the Judicial Service Commission should review the status of the Constitutional Court.
"That's the impression it creates (that judges can't make mistakes); that's why I am saying they are almost close to God. I think it's important to engage them, to raise these issues; they are issues that need to be looked at," he said.
Zuma, who has appeared before these judges, was asked if this would not be interpreted as bullying the judiciary. He replied: "No, you can't bully the judges, because if I say engage them, I am not saying I am going to order them around... I say let us discuss logic. They will also raise their matters. What is important is engaging; it is not instructing or bullying."
Zuma, if he becomes president, would have to appoint the new chief justice, as Justice Pius Langa is due to retire in October.
Asked if he would consider Justice Moseneke, given his clash with the ANC shortly after the ruling party's conference, Zuma said that although he would appoint competent people, he could not ignore the judge's statement.
"I think I will be very sensitive (to Justice Moseneke's statement). And I think that is precisely the reason why we always say judges should know what they say... You can't just stand up and say I don't care what this ANC (sic), and it is a ruling party. You are just declaring war. Why should you say that when you are a judge," he said.