In June 2021, the Constitutional Court deviated from the norm and violated its own bible – the constitution, when it delivered a contentious judgement by Sisi Khampepe, sentencing former State president Jacob Zuma to an effective 15 months in jail for an alleged contempt of court.
The judgement, in the eyes of many South African citizens, was irrational on so many levels and it simply highlighted the suspicion held by different groups of society for a long time now that the SA judiciary is, not only bias, but also corrupt and deeply involved in the factional politics of the African National Congress (ANC) as well as the country at large.
Voicing its perspective on this emotive matter, Inyanda Institute contends that the contempt of court judgement should have carried a civil penalties charge, and went on to say, “now that Zuma is free – at least on paper, since the war with the establishment is far from over – we ought to reflect on the role of the judiciary in our society.”
In a statement released on Sunday, the Institute proposes that Africans must examine the relationship they’ve been conditioned to have with judges and the courts, and further questions the judges being always viewed as demigods and “why it is a taboo to criticize a judge or court decision”.
“Surely since [judges] are human like us, they are also bound to make mistakes here and there. It can’t be that when a judge errs or an irrational court judgement is made, then all criticism of that is viewed as an attack on the judiciary.
“We should take this moment to reflect on the irrelevance of Roman Dutch jurisprudence, especially in a country where 80% of the population is African,” it said.
The recent decision by the high court to have Advocate Malesela Teffo struck off the roll of legal practitioners and barred from being an advocate has added fuel to the fire.
According to Inyanda Institute, Advocate Teffo’s case presents a unique opportunity to revive the discourse around the indigenous African law systems and to probe tendencies of racism in the judiciary, in line with the 2004 report that was produced by Judge President John Hlophe of The Western Cape division.
“The time for natives to take full control of their destiny is now. We can no longer continue living like tenants in the land of our ancestors,” the Institute proclaimed.