Anybody who went beyond talk or criticism to actually threaten the judiciary's independence would definitely be confronted, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng told a meeting of editors in Durban on Saturday.
"Every South African who is aggrieved about something has the right to say what he wants ..that's also politicians… but I will not hesitate to confront anybody who actually does something that poses a threat to the independence of the judiciary," he said.
Mogoeng was addressing a council meeting of the SA Editors' Forum.
He was asked if, given statements by some politicians that the judiciary was being used to undermine the government, he felt there were any threats, now or potentially, to the independence of judges.
"I will not respond every time somebody says something… but if that person does something, I'll rise up to confront him."
Without fear or favour
"But if we ever get to the point where our judges are pressured never to go a particular way in decisions for fear of threats, or death threats, or cartoons, whatever… Then the judiciary is under threat."
The duty of judicial officers was to dispense and uphold justice in accordance with the requirements of the constitution and their oath required them to do so without fear or favour.
Earlier, the Chief Justice, whose appointment last September was strongly criticised by commentators in the media, said he would be "forever grateful" to the media for the extent of the criticism of him.
It had shown him something he did not believe he had the capacity for -to thrive under pressure and "to stay focused on what I have been privileged to have been appointed to do.
"Keep on writing, .. it is good. People must have the space to express themselves as strongly as they wish to.
"I have the capacity to absorb just about anything, but spare the magistrates and the judges … We do not need judicial officers that decide cases based on what they have seen happen to colleagues in terms of media criticism," Mogoeng said, adding that it was critical the media take care it got the facts correct.