In a spit-fire speech to Unisa, Lindiwe Sisulu repeats her January attack on judiciary and SA Constitution
The tourism minister appears to have again refuted the President’s statement that she had apologised for a previous attack on the judiciary.
Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu repeated her January attack on the judiciary and the Constitution in a spit-fire speech at Unisa on Tuesday.
“The judiciary is not untouchable and the South African Constitution is not a holy script,” said Sisulu in a speech to Unisa’s College of Law. Sisulu also denied that she had apologised to President Cyril Ramaphosa for an opinion article in January in which she equated some members of the judiciary to mentally colonised “house niggers”, an African American term for sell-outs.
She said: “…evidence suggests the judiciary may be in cahoots with the elite against the very people it should be defending; the problem with the judiciary is it hasn’t been above the fray where it should have been.”
The 11-page speech went on in the same vein at some length.
“…the courts do make law, and if the result is unsatisfactory after 28 years, must we not have a second look at how we can aid the courts through judicial reform and reform of the Constitution,” said Sisulu, who has been in the Cabinet for 28 years.
“I stick by every word I wrote on [Hi Mzansi, have we seen justice?, published by IOL on 7 January]. Freedom of speech is part and parcel of the freedom we fought for, gave our lives for; shaken by raw nerves to speak the truth, a whole mob was mobilised to interpret the article on the Constitution,” said Sisulu.
The minister has soft-launched a campaign to take over from Ramaphosa as ANC leader when the party holds its elective conference in December, but it has not really taken off. Former health minister Zweli Mkhize has also said he will run, so the speech may have been an attempt to reinsert herself into the mainstream and hasten a face-off with the President, who is facing a drop in public support after former spy boss Arthur Fraser landed the farm robbery bombshell.
Sisulu laid into Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who defended the judiciary against Sisulu’s January article.
“What was most astonishing was to watch the then Acting Chief Justice take umbrage and declare that ALL black judges had been insulted. He went on to list himself, all the black judges of the Constitutional Court, all the black judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal, and the Judge Presidents of the various divisions — to my horror, I must say.”
Sisulu implied that she had meant only some black judges.
She said that the uproar that greeted her article was political and instigated and that its meaning “flew right over the likes of Cosatu leaders” and “some insignificant Zimbabwean also desperate for political recognition”. She did not name the Zimbabwean person.
“I have been accused of not respecting the Constitution. That is rubbish,” said Sisulu, who listed the 17 amendments to the foundational law. “I have used my freedom of speech to express my view from an African perspective and I stick to that view.”
She defended her article’s use of the term “house niggers”, saying it was “known language” and that comparisons with the African American language were contextual and apposite. “Is the Africanisation of the law a swear word?”
She also appeared to again gainsay Ramaphosa’s statement in January that she had apologised.
“When the President asked to see me about the matter, it was a very cordial meeting and we looked for the offending parts [in the article] and we found it. [The line] which said ‘Blacks with colonised minds’. I asked why would that be so offensive and pointed out that I received colonial education for a better part of my life and I consciously struggle to unlearn.”
A tourism minister is meant to be a country’s leading brand ambassador, but Sisulu painted a picture of a Hobbesian country.
“Almost 30 years into our democracy, the feelings of being proudly South African have dissipated, leaving behind disappointment, disillusionment and deep anger born of a sense of betrayal.”
As tourism minister, Sisulu plans to attract 10 million tourists to South Africa annually. DM
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