Supreme Court of Appeal: No corruption in the judiciary

Certain politicians allege that judges had been prompted to arrive at pre-determined outcomes.

FILE: Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Lex Mpati, said by ignoring or disobeying court orders, South Africa finds itself on dangerous ground.

Mpati said if anyone believed a judge or a court was corrupt, the right way to pursue this was to appeal judgments all the way to the Constitutional Court.

On Wednesday, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said the heads of the country's courts had asked him to meet President Jacob Zuma over claims about judges by certain politicians.

Mogoeng said judges rejected claims that some of them had been prompted to arrive at pre-determined outcomes.

Mpati said in almost 20 years he had never come across corruption in the judiciary.

"If we're going to disrespect court orders or we're going to want to go out and do things which are not legal or lawful, then of course we are treading on dangerous grounds."

Both ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande have claimed judges are trying to sabotage government.

The pair, together with police minister Nathi Nhleko, have all strongly criticised the judiciary after a court ruled Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir should be arrested, an order which was defied.

Deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke said government should not worry that they would be biased.

"We're judges. We take seriously our oath of office and we'll continue to act impartially."

The Law Society of South Africa, the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) all say they support Mogoeng and the heads of the country's courts in saying that some of the recent criticism of the judiciary is unacceptable.

Nadel's advocate Gcina Malindi said claims by certain politicians are out of bounds.

"It is worrying because some of the criticisms have gone a few degrees outside of the parameters allowable."

Meanwhile, Mogoeng said criticism could not be vague.

"Importantly the criticism should be specific and clear. General gratuitous criticism is unacceptable."

This was a show of unity by the country's judges, who are clearly angry with how government and the ANC have behaved over the al-Bashir issue.

At the same time, as the country's legal organisations say they back South Africa's judges in rejecting criticism by politicians, Mogoeng said he doesn't believe government will disobey more court orders.

Mogoeng said he believed officials would think twice before disobeying more court orders.

"But if it were to happen that court orders are disobeyed going forward, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

BLA head Busani Mabunda said it was important for politicians to obey the law.

"We should guard against a situation where we use a political approach to trump justice."

The legal fraternity appears to be coming together over this issue and will engage Zuma to discuss these problems.