/ 7 January 2008

Cosatu takes issue with Chaskalson, Bizos

The recent concerns of former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson and liberation struggle lawyer George Bizos about statements made by supporters of African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma should be dismissed, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Monday.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said instead of criticising the union for making statements that were said to undermine the independence of the judiciary, the two veteran lawyers should rather direct their concerns to those who have been violating Zuma’s rights.

”Cosatu fully supports an independent judiciary and shares the judges’ fears that it is under threat.

”We believe, however, that they should not be criticising Cosatu, but [rather] the people who are manipulating the judicial system for their own political ends,” he said.

On Saturday, Chaskalson and Bizos issued a joint statement attacking Zuma supporters, including Cosatu, for making reckless statements over Zuma’s corruption case.

The veteran lawyers advised Cosatu to desist from making statements to the effect that Zuma was innocent, as it was the role of the court to decide whether the ANC president was guilty or not.

However, Craven accused the two lawyers of being partial, since they had failed to raise similar concerns when certain people were abusing state institutions for political reasons.

He said Cosatu would have liked to have heard the judges express similar concerns when NPA head Vusi Pikoli was suspended, and when a warrant of arrest issued against police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi was cancelled.

”The two judges’ deafening silence on all these abuses of the legal process, and of an individual’s human rights, all of which pose a real threat to the independence of the judiciary, has undermined their credibility now that they are coming up with other, non-existent threats to judicial independence, and they have therefore lost the right to claim to be neutral on the issue,” Craven said. — Sapa