In a hall that heard a brutal attack on South African judges, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa stood at the South African Communist Party (SACP) special national congress and was at pains in defending the Constitution.
On Thursday, Ramaphosa warned about attacking the judiciary.
“We will pay heed to what they have to say as judges, as independent judges, who need to be respected,” he said.
Ramaphosa, who played a lead role in drafting the South African Constitution, said government will engage with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
“The independence of the judiciary is something the ANC will always defend,” he said.
A day before, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande told delegates that there was a “a deliberate overreach by the judiciary”.
It was something the ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe accused the judiciary of a week before.
“We want to open the debate. We are not attacking, like we are thought to be, when we speak about the judiciary,” Nzimande told the congress.
He further said they would “not shut up” on this matter, further saying the SACP will call for a summit on the judiciary.
Attacks on judiciary
Later on Wednesday, chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng held a press conference where he announced that he has requested a meeting with President Jacob Zuma following unwarranted attacks on the judiciary.
“There have been suggestions that in certain cases … judges have been prompted to arrive at a predetermined result. This is a notion that we reject,” Mogoeng said
Ramaphosa said they welcome the meeting and would co-operate with Mogoeng. He further denied that there was a constitutional crises in South Africa. “Those who say there is a constitutional crises have it in their head,” Ramaphosa told the congress.
He said the Constitution was drafted on principles of South African people.
“At that meeting we will discuss openly and robustly with the judiciary … we will discuss what ordinary people on the ground perceive as negative,” Ramaphosa said.
The renewed attack on the judiciary was prompted after North Gauteng High Court Judge President Dunstan Mlambo called out government for defying a court order in allowing Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir to leave South Africa.
Government officials allowed Al-Bashir to leave the country following an African Union summit despite the court order prohibiting them from doing so.
Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court to stand trial on charges, including genocide and as a signatory to the Rome Statue, South Africa was obliged to arrest and hand him over.
Nzimande said that this was an attempt by the judiciary to interfere in the State.