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Don’t drag judges into politics – Ramaphosa

The ANC has apologised for using Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya's image on an election campaign poster. Picture: MyANC/X

The ANC has apologised for using Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya's image on an election campaign poster. Picture: MyANC/X

Published Nov 20, 2023


The DA and UDM have slammed the ANC’s use of an image of Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa May on a voter registration poster.

President Cyril Ramaphosa apologised on behalf of the ANC for the use of Justice Maya’s image on a party poster, also saying that judges must not be brought into politics.

The poster, on social media platform X (formerly Twitter), depicted Maya in her official Constitutional Court robe, accompanied by a call for South Africans to register to vote for the ANC.

Ramaphosa was reacting to a strongly worded statement from the Office of the Chief Justice distancing itself from the use of Justice Maya’s image on the ANC social media page, saying it was not authorised by Justice Maya’s office or the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ).

Judges are prohibited from belonging to political parties.

“The OCJ wishes to inform the public that this inappropriate use of the Deputy Chief Justice’s image in an election campaign poster was not authorised by Deputy Chief Justice Maya or the OCJ. For the record, Deputy Chief Justice Maya is not a member of the ANC or any other political party.

“This unauthorised use of the Deputy Chief Justice’s image has the potential to unduly bring the judiciary into disrepute as well as undermine the integrity of the judiciary as section 165(2) of the Constitution provides that the courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law, which they must apply without fear, favour or prejudice.”

The ANC posted an apology on X, saying it regretted any offence caused to Justice Maya when the poster with her image was posted without her consent.

“We intended to celebrate the significant progress and transformation made in all areas of society, including the judiciary, where Justice Maya is widely respected. The ANC unreservedly apologises to the OCJ on this oversight.”

The DA’s Glynnis Breytenbach said while the “ANC has issued an apology for this egregious misuse of the Deputy Chief Justice’s image, it is essential to emphasise that an apology alone cannot erase the severe damage caused.

“The ANC’s blatant disregard for the independence and credibility of the judiciary is a matter of great concern. We commend Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya for promptly disavowing any authorisation or awareness of the use of her image in this inappropriate context.

“It is crucial that public figures, especially those holding high judicial offices, are protected from unwarranted political exploitation,” Breytenbach said.

The UDM said the “ANC stooped very low, disrespectfully campaigning on social media (X) using an image that was not authorised ...

“The ANC is completely devoid of integrity and dignity, and they show no regard for either the nation’s highest court position or its inhabitants.”

Alison Tilley of Judges Matter, a civil society organisation, said Justice Maya was held in the highest regard and admired for many aspects of her work.

“She did not give permission for this, and there is no blame or censure attached to her and this will not affect her credibility or that of the judiciary,” said Tilley, calling on all political parties to protect and respect the judiciary.

Ramaphosa, speaking on Saturday during the voter registration event in Soweto, said this should not have happened as judges should be independent.

“It shouldn’t happen. Judges are independent and judges must be given the respect and the position that is due to them to be the arbiters of the nation.

“If you are the arbiter of the nation, you’ve got to be given the independence and you have to act independently because you have the prestige and you have respect, and that is why we should not drag them into party political issues.”

He added that judges should also “not drag themselves into politics because we also cannot drag ourselves into judicial matters”.

The Mercury