/ 20 January 2022

Sisulu rejects Ramaphosa’s ‘apology in her name’

Lindiwe Sisulu 9859 Dv
Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. (Photo: Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Minister Lindiwe Sisulu on Thursday defiantly insisted that she stood by her remarks against the judiciary after President Cyril Ramaphosa said she had agreed to withdraw them and published an apology in her name.

“I have just been informed of a media alert issued by the presidency that apparently claims that I, Lindiwe N Sisulu, retracted my original expression,” Sisulu said.

Her statement followed less than two hours after that of the presidency, which said Ramaphosa had met with Sisulu in Cape Town and rebuked her for a widely published article in which she claimed African judges lacked agency and betrayed their own because they had internalised colonialism.

Ramaphosa said the minister had conceded that she was wrong and offered a fulsome apology, included in his statement.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa met with the Minister of Tourism, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, in Cape Town earlier this week, where he admonished her about her recent article entitled “Hi Mzansi, have we seen justice?” published on 7 January 2022,” the presidency said.

“The President specifically admonished the Minister about her attack on the judiciary when she said: “Today, in the high echelons of our judicial system are those mentally colonised Africans, who have settled with the worldview and mindset of those who have dispossessed their ancestors.”

The presidency quoted further from the article, which has been sharply condemned by the judiciary, where Sisulu said: “They are only too happy to lick the spittle of those who falsely claim superiority. The lack of confidence that permeates their rulings against their own speaks very loudly, while others, secure in their agenda, clap behind closed doors.”

But Sisulu said the statement was a misrepresentation of what happened at the meeting, and gave her own version.

“The president and I met on Wednesday at 9pm at his house. In such a meeting, he shared his challenge with one aspect of the article on the judges,” she said.

“The president proposed an intermediary that would focus on the one line about the judges to resolve that. I awaited such to be communicated which would do nothing to the entire article.”

She stressed that she stood by her utterances.

“Under no circumstances did I commit to any retraction or apology since I stand by what I penned.”

The content of Ramaphosa’s statement was, she said,  “unfortunate as it is not what we agreed on.

“In this regard, I wish to distance myself from such.”

Ramaphosa’s statement attributed the following apology to the minister: “I accept that my column has levelled against the judiciary and African judges, in particular, unsubstantiated, gratuitous and deeply hurtful comments. I retract unequivocally my hurtful comments. 

“I recognise that many women and men judges past and present have served their country in the judiciary with dedication and patriotism and some have made sterling sacrifices in the fight against apartheid and colonialism.

“I apologise for and regret the hurt I have caused the judiciary.”

Sisulu said she would issue a full statement within 24 hours.

The public showdown between the president and the minister came almost two weeks after her article was first published.

Last week, Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said that, in his estimation, the minister’s article went beyond criticism or an attack and constituted the worst insult hurled at the institution in memory. 

Zondo urged her to reflect and withdraw the remarks.

Instead, Sisulu continued in a similar vein and responded dismissively to an article Justice Minister Ronald Lamola wrote to contradict her and defend the judiciary and the Constitution. 

Sisulu’s attack on both — she said the Constitution had proven an empty promise to the poor waiting for social justice — has been widely seen as her opening gambit in a planned leadership challenge to Ramaphosa who will seek a second term as president of the ruling ANC at its elective conference in December.