South Africa


Julius Malema’s attack on the judiciary is self-serving

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party president Julius Malema addresses supporters during the far-left opposition party's official 2019 presidential elections manifesto launch at the Giant stadium in Soshanguve outside Pretoria, South Africa, 02 February 2019. EPA-EFE/STR

Our courts are not without problems, but they have done as much as any arm of the state to realise the Bill of Rights.

First published by GroundUp

EFF leader Julius Malema launched a tirade against the judiciary on Friday, warning of its imminent “capture”. The EFF Twitter account echoed him: “South Africa be warned, something wrong is happening with the judiciary. The judiciary is about to be captured.”

Even by his standards, Malema’s rant was extraordinary. News24 quotes him:

You must know that when you are EFF, you are the enemy of the Rothschilds, you are the enemy of the Ruperts, you are the enemy of the establishment. The establishment is white monopoly capital, it’s the army, it’s the police, it’s the courts, every institution that existed 300 years ago, that’s what an establishment means.”

Putting aside Malema’s anti-white remarks and the bizarre, veiled anti-Semitic reference to the Rothschilds, this much can be said about the South African judiciary:

There is indeed much to criticise about the courts. GroundUp has frequently reported the problem of late judgments. There are also troubling questions about the Office of the Chief Justice’s expenditure. And some magistrates still ignore the meaning and spirit of the Constitution.

But the judiciary is not captured, nor in imminent danger of being captured. On the contrary, its independence during the Zuma era was laudable. Ordering the former president to pay back the public money he used to upgrade Nkandla is just one obvious example of many.

Painting the judiciary as a bastion of establishment oppression is unfair. Since 1994 many fine judgments have created the possibility of a more just society: the Grootboom judgment on housing, the mother-to-child transmission case for HIV, several recent judgments on evictions, and one on norms and standards for schools. The judiciary has done as much as any arm of the state to realise the ideals of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

Malema also attacked Robert Nugent, one of the country’s finest judges (now retired), who was described by the Johannesburg Bar as a person of the “highest degree of integrity and ethical behaviour”. Nugent led the inquiry into SARS that is helping to put the country back in shape.

His attack on the judiciary is self-serving.

His rant on Friday came after the postponement of a case in which he is accused of inciting party members to occupy any vacant land. He is using the real problem of unequal distribution of land and housing to raise support from poor shack dwellers, in the full knowledge that the courts cannot accept the unlawful occupation of land.

He potentially faces charges related to improper tenders in Limpopo, and the EFF faces serious allegations about its role in the VBS Bank scandal. He is trying to discredit the courts before he has to answer questions in court about his and his party’s alleged criminal activities. DM