OPINION: We must all be concerned at the level of attacks on the judiciary
The Public Protector keeps on losing cases before the courts, as does the EFF and of course it is not the poor legal advice, the often mediocre legal representation they use or the ineptitude of themselves that caused the adverse findings. Rather, it is a biased, corrupt judiciary that is to blame.
The judiciary is not, and should not, be beyond criticism. Indeed, our courts function transparently and every decision is liable to be scrutinised, criticised and often subject to appeal to a higher court. Judges and lawyers are only human beings, fallible and liable to make errors from time to time. Every now and then the personal conduct of a judge is clearly unacceptable, but these instances are few and far between. Most law-abiding people have, as they should have, a healthy respect for the judiciary (and in this I include the overwhelming majority of our magistrates). But gratuitous smearing of our judges is not legitimate and ought to be resisted by everyone who cares about the Constitution.
Professor Hugh Corder recently wrote pertinently that: “In any constitutional democracy worth the name the judiciary will be the ultimate guarantor of the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution.” He went on to say, “critics should ask themselves to which constitutional institution will they turn for protection in the future.”
There are many examples of intemperate attacks on the judiciary, led by Julius Malema and his people. But one, from a surprising quarter, a Johannesburg attorney, Raymond Chalom, seemed to me to be beyond the pale. He is disgruntled because on two occasions after applying, he was not appointed as a judge.
Without adducing any convincing evidence, he proceeded to smear all judges, stating the judiciary is corrupt.
As someone who practised as an attorney in Johannesburg for many years, and as a former justice spokesperson in parliament and a member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) that appoints judges, I know many judges, attorneys and advocates, regrettably today only the senior and older ones.
I never regarded Raymond Chalom as being of sufficient personal or professional standing to make him a natural candidate for appointment as a judge, despite what he clearly feels about his own merits.
A point that is relevant only because it goes to character, is that Chalom claimed to a reporter of the Sunday Independent recently that he was an “anti-apartheid attorney”.
This despite the fact that Chalom was a leading light in a political party, the New Republic Party (NRP), that stood for a four-chamber parliament, with one for blacks and one for every other race group.
It was described by the anti-apartheid PFP as a “racist party”. It was only dissolved in 1988. That membership is old history and his own affair, but an “anti-apartheid attorney” may not be entirely accurate.
Our Constitution is precious and the losers who undermine it with wild and unsubstantiated allegations need to be repudiated.
Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His website is douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com