South Africa

Judicial Service Commission

Parliament asked to act over Malema’s role in judicial interviews, given his disparaging comments about judges

Parliament asked to act over Malema’s role in judicial interviews, given his disparaging comments about judges
EFF leader Julius Malema EFF leader Julius Malema is one of six MPs, three from opposition parties, who serve on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) representing Parliament – not a political party. Photo Thulani Mbele

The EFF leader’s criticism of the judiciary calls into question his role representing the National Assembly at the Judicial Service Commission judges’ interviews, says the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution. And the council is asking Parliament to take action.

Holding elected public representatives accountable for their politically motivated statements may well be dismissed in South Africa’s political noise, but it speaks directly to conduct that must be expected from those straddling elected and political office.

In terms of Section 178 of the Constitution, EFF leader Julius Malema is one of six MPs, three from opposition parties, who serve on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) representing Parliament – not a political party.

Section 165 stipulates all organs of state, including Parliament, must “assist and protect the courts to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts”. 

For this reason, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) has asked National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise what actions Parliament is taking over Malema’s “unwarranted” and “unbecoming” comments about judges. The letter, dated 31 March and seen by Daily Maverick, was sent well before the start of the week-long judges’ interviews by the JSC from Monday.

“Do Mr Malema’s views represent those of the National Assembly? If not, what action will the National Assembly take to hold Mr Malema accountable for these statements, particularly as one of the National Assembly’s representatives to the JSC?” 

CASAC’s letter specifically refers to the most recent of Malema’s sharp slating of judges, and the State Capture Commission chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo during the 30 March televised media briefing on the recent meeting of its highest decision-making structure between elective congresses, the EFF central command council.

Malema said at that briefing that “the rule of law in South Africa is applied selectively” and that the State Capture inquiry was not holding to account the “Rupert stooges” and the Oppenheimers – the radical economic transformation shorthand for white monopoly capital – but was representative of “a certain faction of society”. Zondo was “not our god”, and his actions would be reviewed.

CASAC wanted Modise’s undertaking that the National Assembly would act on this ahead of the JSC interviews.

“These statements constitute an unwarranted attack on the integrity of Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and the judiciary as a whole. It is unbecoming of any member of the National Assembly, let alone one of its representatives on the JSC, to make such public comments that deliberately seek to undermine the independence and integrity of the judicial arm of the state,” wrote CASAC Executive Secretary Lawson Naidoo, who also raised the criminal charges against Malema, including assault and incitement to violence.

“The utterances of Mr Malema clearly undermine these constitutional principles and, if left unchallenged, will undermine the judiciary in the eyes of the public.”

Modise responded on Monday as Malema took his seat at the JSC interviews from Monday.

“The National Assembly does not hold the same position in respect of the judiciary that Mr JS Malema seemingly holds,” said the Speaker’s letter seen by Daily Maverick.

CASAC should submit a complaint in terms of the parliamentary code of conduct to the Registrar of Members’ Interests, if the council wished to take the matter further, it read.

The JSC replied with a “no comment” when contacted on Tuesday. Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said he could not add to the official letter on the matter.

EFF national spokesperson Vuyani Pambo did not respond to two telephone calls, a voicemail and an SMS on Tuesday. The EFF is on public record with its refusal to engage Daily Maverick, which also was denied access to its 2019 elective People’s Assembly.

Strictly speaking, the Judicial Service Commission Act does not set out the criteria for Parliament selecting its JSC members – six MPs and four delegates from the National Council of Provinces. Traditionally, political parties put forward their nominations, and political structures at the national legislatures resolve who will serve on the JSC. The names are then approved in the House. Malema was elected to the JSC in June 2014.

And so the focus falls back on Parliament – and its internal arrangement. The Constitution, in Section 57, states that the National Assembly may “determine and control its internal arrangements, proceedings and procedures”. Courts have upheld this constitutional responsibility, even when parliamentary rules have fallen short of expected standards or laws were found to be unconstitutional. Judges have identified the shortcomings, and then asked Parliament to fix the defects, often within a stipulated deadline of a year or two when it comes to legislation.

CASAC’s Naidoo told Daily Maverick on Tuesday the council would respond to Modise’s letter, saying it was crucial that Parliament consider this matter of JSC representation at its appropriate structures.

“A failure of Parliament to do so would constitute a dereliction of its responsibilities,” said Naidoo. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Peter Digby says:

    So once an MP is ‘elected’ to the JSC they there for life..? Julius has been there since 2014. No term? No chance for other minority parties? No review on whether they have fulfilled the role of representing parliament?

    • Dhasagan Pillay says:

      Notwithstanding the extension of Mr Malema’s term, which seems lazy on the part of Parly. The entire political quorum of the JSC seems a missed opportunity for non-partisan representivity. Surely a chair from the majority party and 9 members from others encourages independence and accountability?

  • Sergio CPT says:

    Malema is a depraved racist fascist bully and rabble rouser who should not be serving in such a capacity as he just demeans it – like everything he does. He has no respect for laws, common decency and deserves to be treated like the rubbish that he is. A flip flopper of note with no morals/ethics

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      You mean he’s a black Donald Trump with no hair! Beware underestimating this man or anyone without a conscience or ethics – they manage to persuade large sections of society who feel they have no voice and nothing to lose.

      • M D Fraser says:

        Psychopathic narcissists are the most dangerous of all, e.g. Hitler, Mussolini, Gaddafi, Hussein, Malema. Jane is quite right, unfortunately.

  • Meirion Griffiths says:

    A fascist, demagogue thug who is soon to face multiple charges of corruption gets a say on deciding on judges to sit on the highest court in the land? Only in South Africa could such a nonsensical situation arise.

  • Sergio CPT says:

    100% right Meirion! Any depravity goes in this country and it is therefore no wonder that SA is in such a mess and becoming a wasteland. The most odious, thieving, parasitic and corrupt are still free, many of the serving in government, parliament etc. and enjoying the fruits of their theft.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    More reason for liberal democratic party in government. Fascist/communist parties do not meet the expected standards of policy or behavior in the modern world.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Did Julius disparage his honor Judge Hlope also? Could have improved his batting average…

  • It is a sad day when the likes of Malema is allowed to sit as a contributor on a body like the JSC. His vile and racist attitude disqualifies him from contributing meaningful opinion. His type needs to be treated like vermin.

  • Johan says:

    Isn’t there a conflict of interest if you have court cases pending but serves on a JSC panel interviewing judges?

  • John Bestwick says:

    White noise is all i ever hear when that demented fool opens his mouth.

  • Nick Griffon says:

    The fact that Malema is even allowed through Parliament’s doors is an embarrassment to our democracy (and I use the term lightly). He should have been prosecuted and jailed for his shenanigans in Limpopo with his On Point Engineering cronies back in the day. Not to mention the VBS looting.

  • Eric Reurts says:

    And when will members of “the Media” who, gladly, knowingly broadcast these insane often dangerous and always unsubstantiated utterances be charged with broadcasting fake news?

  • Peter Dexter says:

    It is clear from the events at the JSC that only those with suitable legal qualifications and experience should be represented on this body. Political parties should have to select representatives meeting these standards. That would improve the functioning of the JSC and result in a better judiciary. Malema is part of the problem

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