Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Thursday deplored the vandalism attack on the constitutional court and warned that public facilities appeared under threat from those wanting to destroy institutions that symbolise and safeguard constitutional rights.
“This incident comes shortly after other important state facilities have experienced unprecedented attacks, including recent threats having been made to cause damage to some superior courts,” he said in a statement.
“These attacks and threats seek to cause the destruction of these important facilities that the public rely on for the protection of their constitutional rights.”
Zondo added that he viewed the attack, in which a man smashed windows at the constitutional court in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, with a hammer, in “a very serious light”.
He urged all law enforcement agencies “to do everything in their power to put proactive measures in place to avert similar attacks”.
The attack came three days after parliament was damaged by fire in a suspected case of arson, and a day after the first part of the Zondo commission’s report on state capture was formally handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“The judiciary appeals to all relevant organs of the state and functionaries responsible for state facilities and security services, to ensure a threat and risk based assessment of arrangements around critical court facilities and its important assets,” Zondo added.
He stressed that the incident would not prevent the justices of the court and supporting staff from going about their work, but said it affected their security as well as that of the public.
“However, due to such an incident, the security of the judiciary, the supporting staff and the general court users, remains compromised and requires urgent attention.”
No one was injured in the attack and repairs are underway.
A suspect arrested by the police is to appear in court on charges of malicious damage to property.
There have been threats against the courts for months, following former president Jacob Zuma’s sentencing to prison for contempt of court after he defied an order of the constitutional court to testify before the Zondo commission.
Zuma’s arrest triggered a wave of deadly violence over a week in July, deemed a failed insurrection by Ramaphosa.