President Jacob Zuma sees a need to “review the Constitutional Court’s powers”. This was part of a democratic process to counterbalance the powers of the three arms of the state.
In an interview with The Star yesterday, Zuma reiterated that judges were not “special people” but fallible human beings.
The Star understands that the issue of the review of the powers of the Constitutional Court was raised by a deputy minister and ANC leader at the party’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting two weeks ago, and also canvassed among cabinet ministers. Two sources in the party and the government confirmed this.
But yesterday Zuma said it was “not necessarily members of the NEC of the ANC, it is a general societal issue that is being raised, (it is a) growing view”.
He questioned the logic of having split judgments among judges, saying “how could you say that (the) judgment is absolutely correct when the judges themselves have different views about it”.
“We don’t want to review the Constitutional Court, we want to review its powers. it is after experience that some of the decisions are not decisions that every other judge in the Constitutional Court agrees with.
“There are dissenting judgments which we read. You will find that the dissenting one has more logic than the one that enjoyed the majority. What do you do in that case? That’s what has made the issue to become the issue of concern.”
He said judges were “influenced by what’s happening and influenced by you guys (the media)”.
If the decisions of Parliament and the executive could be challenged, there was nothing wrong in questioning the decisions of the judiciary.
Last year Zuma reminded the judiciary – on two occasions – that its powers could not be regarded as superior to the executive, elected by popular vote.
In 2009, shortly before he became president, Zuma told The Star that the status of the Constitutional Court should be reviewed because its judges were not God.
In December, the cabinet decided to assess the judgments of the Constitutional Court, and last month judges opposed Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe’s intention to compel them to declare their financial interests.
However, Zuma said his view on the judiciary was not informed by several judgments against his presidency, including the Supreme Court of Appeal overturning his appointment of Menzi Simelane as national director of public prosecutions (NDPP).
The same court is expected to rule on Wednesday on the decision in 2009 by Simelane’s predecessor, then acting NDPP Mokotedi Mpshe, to decline to prosecute Zuma for corruption.
Zuma said yesterday it was part of the democratic process for the courts to challenge his decisions.