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ANC defends Mantashe

Published Jul 11, 2008

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The ANC has rejected criticism that recent remarks by secretary general Gwede Mantashe amounted to an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

He was entitled to voice his concerns when judges conducted themselves improperly, the party wrote on Friday in its online publication ANC Today.

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"While society must continually defend the independence and integrity of the judiciary, there is equally a responsibility on judges themselves to uphold the highest standards of fairness, honesty and objectivity."

Like all public institutions, the judiciary should expect its actions to be scrutinised, discussed and criticised.

"That is not unhealthy in a democracy."

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However, the party denied that Mantashe had labelled judges as counter-revolutionary, saying he had been misquoted.

"Mantashe did not say that the actions of the Constitutional Court judges were counter-revolutionary. But he did say that their actions brought the highest court in the land into disrepute," read the article.

In his speech at the ANC Youth league conference two weeks ago, Mantashe was reported to have described the judges as counter-revolutionary.

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"This is psychological preparation of society so that when the Constitutional Court judges pounce on our president we should be ready at that point in time," Mantashe reportedly said.

"Our revolution is in danger; we must declare to defend it till the end."

In an interview with the Mail&Guardian published on July 4, Mantashe said his remarks stemmed from concerns about what appeared to be a concerted effort by "counter-revolutionary forces", including the Constitutional Court and opposition parties.

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"He is the president of the ANC," he said.

"You hit the head, you kill the snake. When there is that attack on him it is a concerted attack on the head of the ANC.

"Everybody says it is an innocent attack on him. We will know that it is an attack on the ANC."

The ANC on Friday admitted Mantashe had used the term "counter revolutionary", but said the statement was not directed at the judges.

"Reporters... made no distinction between those forces that were 'counter-revolutionary' and those whose actions had placed the ANC 'under siege'. They are not necessarily the same, and he had not suggested that they were necessarily the same," the party said in its online publication.

Mail&Guardian editor Ferial Haffajee said on Friday the paper was in possession of a tape where Mantashe was recorded as saying the Judges were "counter revolutionary".

She said Mantashe, who usually called her when there was a story in the paper that he was not happy with, had not phoned her to complain about the story.

"He has not complained nor requested an apology. My colleague has a tape recording of the interview," Haffajee said. - Sapa

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