Top judge defends judicial dissent after Zuma criticism

Acting deputy chief justice Zak Yacoob on Monday responded indirectly to president Jacob Zuma’s concerns about the power and intellectual vibrancy of the Constitutional Court.

Speaking at the opening of the Constitutional Court Week conference hosted by the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung at the University of Cape Town, Yacoob said “the fact that judges differ with each other is not surprising, nor is it something to bemoan”.

Yacoob added that he would be “perturbed if the 11 judges of the Constitutional Court agreed with each other, judgment after judgment, year after year” as it would suggest a court lacking in rigour and debate.

Earlier this year Zuma said in an interview that those in government “don’t want to review the Constitutional Court, we want to review its powers“.

At the time, Zuma also questioned the split decisions emanating from the Constitutional Court: “It is after experience that some of the decisions are not decisions that every other judge in the Constitutional Court agrees with— How could you say that [the] judgment is absolutely correct when the judges themselves have different views about it?”

Yacoob’s statements come at a time when there is increasing public debate — and consternation — around the role and powers of the constitutional court. Both the government and members of the ruling ANC have made critical noises about the incursions of the judiciary into the political sphere.

Last month, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe announced that the government would commission a study on how Constitutional Court rulings have impacted on the law, the state and the lives of citizens.

Justice department spokesperson Tlali Tlali told the Mail & Guardian that an advert for the tender to conduct the review of the transformative impact of the Constitutional Court “will be released in the next few days. The intention is to release the brief or the terms at the same time, as both these matters are interrelated.”

Yacoob said the current debate about whether the judiciary was making incursions too far into the political sphere was “absolutely vital” and “useful” for judges.

Yacoob, who has worked as a justice at the Constitutional Court since 1998, and is currently filling in as deputy chief justice for Dikgang Moseneke while he is on leave, added that he saw “absolutely nothing wrong” with the review of the Constitutional Court judgments.

He added that “any reasoned opinion” would be “taken seriously” by himself and colleagues on the bench.

In his opening address, titled A Dynamic Constitution? Yacoob also touched on the justice department’s discussion document calling for greater cooperation between the three arms of government (executive, legislature and the judiciary) saying that “this cannot be intended to mean that the legislature and the executive can discuss matters with the judiciary directly.”

Yacoob said that while the arms of government were required to engage on issues such as “budgets [for the running of courts], court buildings and matters like that” it was “not about meeting privately or secretly”.

He noted that the arms of government “should indeed talk to each other, and do so, but in a structured and specialised way” when the executive appears in court and is represented by counsel on matters.

Niren Tolsi
Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.

His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football.

Advertisting

Hlophe complaint is an eerie echo

But the new complaint against the Western Cape judge president is also unprecedented

Mabuza contract grows by R10m

Eskom’s negotiators in a R100-million maintenance contract came back with a proposal to push up the costs

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide

Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour
Advertising

Press Releases

Boosting safety for cargo and drivers

The use of a telematics system for fleet vehicles has proved to be an important tool in helping to drive down costs and improve efficiency, says MiX Telematics Africa.

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.