Editorial: SA’s democracy is under attack

Article published on Mail & Guardian – 26 June 2015.

A fortnight ago, in an extensive interview with the Mail & Guardian, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng dropped a bombshell. The head of the judiciary had last year signalled that there were “very desperate attempts to frame me for criminal acts you can’t even begin to imagine”. Mogoeng’s former spokesperson also referred to attempts to “falsely accuse the chief justice of a crime”.

In the interview, Mogoeng said he had chosen to go public about the alleged smears, including a tale that his official vehicle was involved in an attempted hijacking and that he allegedly raped a sex worker, to counter any attempts to blackmail him in future. He also spoke of how three Constitutional Court justices had been falsely accused of being CIA spies, noting that the inspector general of intelligence, Faith Radebe, had been asked to investigate and had exonerated them.

Puzzlingly, there was little reaction, let alone outrage, from civil society, the legal profession, Parliament or the executive to Mogoeng’s startling claims. Since the chief justice went public with his allegations of a possible dirty tricks campaign, South Africa has been treated to a mind-boggling display of executive contempt for the judiciary.

Last week, the government thumbed its nose at an interim court order ordering it not to allow Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir to leave South Africa, where he was attending the annual African Union summit.

A clear picture is emerging: President Jacob Zuma, Cabinet ministers and South Africa’s law enforcement agencies actively colluded in this flagrant violation of the court order and our own legislation, ensuring that al-Bashir was not arrested to face the charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide that have been brought against him by the International Criminal Court. South Africa is a signatory of the Rome Statute, which mandated the existence of the ICC; in fact, South Africa’s Parliament gave the statute a place in our own law books.

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