President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken a veiled swipe at Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu following her recent attack on the judiciary and Constitution.
Sisulu questioned the Constitution and whether it had done enough to deal with structural issues brought about by apartheid, Sisulu said the Constitution was a “man-made” and historically contextualised document.
She has faced widespread criticism over the article, in which she also questioned the moral standing of the country’s judges.
Ramaphosa, who is yet to speak publicly about the matter, said: “We must safeguard against any and all efforts to diminish our hard-won democracy whether these efforts take the form of corruption in state owned enterprises, the subversion of our law enforcement agencies, the sabotage of our economic infrastructure, or attacks on the independence and integrity of our judiciary. We need to protect our Constitution, our democratic state and the electoral process from anyone who wants to weaken our democracy and deny the South African people of their hard-won freedom.”
Sisulu’s comments have led to a rift in the Cabinet, with other ministers denouncing her utterances. In her latest bout with Cabinet colleagues, Sisulu slammed Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, who had cautioned her that “referring to judicial officers by using crude racial tropes cannot pass off as a debate”.
Sisulu said, “Hopefully, a better understanding of justice, responding to the living, concrete situations of the South African people as we perpetually assess our progress to an equal society. The courts protect and promote the values espoused in the Constitution, and they will use the power their authority affords them in undying efforts to make those values part of our way of life, ‘habits of the heart’, as Prof. Robert Bellah pleaded for the inculcations of those values in American life. But courts and judges are not the Constitution’s owners.”
Sisulu said judges were the Constitution’s keepers, “not its gatekeepers, allowing only some into those hallowed spaces of protection, dignity, and respect. In that sense, if the Constitution does not become the living, embrace the experience of our people as a whole”.
Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele have slammed Sisulu’s for her statements.