Well after the Info Bill - is this any surprise??????
CAPE TOWN — A decision by the Cabinet to institute an investigation of how Constitutional Court decisions have affected the lives of ordinary people has got alarm bells ringing again about possible interference in the judiciary.
Government spokesman Jimmy Manyi told media yesterday after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the assessment of the judiciary was to ensure it "conforms to the transformation mandate as envisaged in the constitution … in terms of nonracialism, gender, disability and other transformational variables".
This comes after criticism by senior African National Congress (ANC) officials of the Constitutional Court and assertions that the judges were counterrevolutionary.
President Jacob Zuma is on record as saying the courts should not infringe on the exclusive right of the executive to make policy.
Mr Manyi said the Cabinet had agreed that the assessment of the court’s decisions be done by a research institution to establish how these decisions had affected the lives of ordinary citizens and how they had influenced socioeconomic transformation and reform of the law.
Democratic Alliance (DA) justice spokeswoman Dene Smuts said the decision "must rate as one of its strangest proposals to date".
"It will inevitably be seen as a sinister attempt to bend the bench to the executive and the ruling party’s will, especially given the recent spate of hostile comments from such persons as ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and Deputy Correctional Services Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, and the fact that it is common knowledge that certain judgments are unpopular with the ANC," Ms Smuts said.
"The courts are not an instrument of government policy whose output can be measured on performance indicators and other governance criteria. They are there to give authoritative interpretation of the constitution and the law," she said.
University of Cape Town constitutional law expert Prof Pierre de Vos agreed there would be suspicion about the motives for a new assessment of the judiciary.
But on its own, research into the socioeconomic effects of judgments would not be problematic as the court had had a positive influence on the lives of ordinary people and was often more pro-poor than the executive or legislature, he said,
Prof de Vos, however, objected to the Cabinet statement that "appropriate mechanisms be developed to facilitate for regular interface between the three spheres of the state to enhance synergy and constructive engagement among them in pursuit of common transformative goals that are geared to benefit the society at large".
This had implications for the separation of powers, and the intention to create mechanisms for closer co- operation between the executive and judiciary was "deeply troubling".
Ms Smuts said: "Cabinet says it wants to affirm the independence of the judiciary by promoting interdependence between the three branches of state — that is a contradiction in terms." She noted a "regular interface" between the three spheres was to be established via "appropriate mechanisms".
"No formal mechanisms are necessary to pursue the constitutional dialogue which former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo postulated and practised to deal with the tensions that inevitably arose between especially the executive and the judiciary."
In response to a question about whether such an executive investigation did not constitute an infringement of the separation of powers, Mr Manyi said it was a "positive" move intended to establish how well this arm of the state was working. "This government would never do anything unconstitutional," he said.