By: Sello Theletsane
Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s press briefing to ‘address’ tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s opinion piece has backfired and opened him to questions regarding his credibility.
Various sectors of society have come out to criticise Zondo, with the INJEJE yabeNGUNI Council calling the press conference a ‘pathetic attempt to stifle democracy.’
“Zondo called a press briefing so that he responds to an opinion piece written by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in her personal capacity where she expresses that which she believes the people of South Africa generally and Africans, in particular, ought to assess and begin to discuss. This was a citizen exercising their democratic right to freedom of speech as enshrined in the country’s Constitution,” the Council said in a statement.
The Council said former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was on record stating that he has resisted overtures by certain characters to offer him money, something Zondo had never addressed himself. It added that it was baffling for Zondo to attempt to project members of the Judiciary as saints.
“We have also seen various cases where Judges in a drunken stupor crash into people’s fences and simply evade any form of accountability. South Africa has innumerable cases of Judges not carrying themselves in the manner that is expected of a judge, and thus when a citizen of the country expresses an opinion in that regard, who does Zondo think he is to attempt to stifle this pertinent debate? We, as the people of South Africa, owe Raymond Zondo absolutely nothing; he wasted billions of taxpayers money only to request the Democratic Alliance to write his report for him,” the Council said.
It further questioned the conduct of judges with regards to their handling of the CR17 bank statements, which remain hidden from the public. The Council added that the very same judges say that President Cyril Ramaphosa did not personally benefit from the donations made towards his presidential campaign, yet they in the same breath concede that the funds were intended to ensure he becomes President of the ANC.
“The judges in South Africa and particularly as led by Zondo have become a sewerage of corruption beneficiaries. We must remind Zondo that those sent to Robben Island and other prisons in the country were sent there by Judges, including Nelson Mandela. Zondo must be reminded how corrupt the Judiciary was during the times of colonialism and apartheid. He and others of his decadence have now ensured returns to those dark evil shenanigans. Our Council commends Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for speaking her mind and igniting a pertinent debate that all Africans need to assess thoroughly. She treads where few men have and for this we applaud her temerity and impetus,” the Council added.
The Economic Freedom Fighters also condemned the briefing, going as far as calling it ‘nothing but a naked campaign for the Office of the Chief Justice.’ The party said the address lacked substance and purpose.
Spokesperson Vuyani Pambo said the briefing press briefing tied the entire Judiciary to a poorly articulated and empty response to an opinion piece.
“Zondo went on a repetitive tirade, framing a political discussion about the slow pace of economic transformation in the country as an attack on the Judiciary. Inappropriately, Zondo seems to have taken a political debate, submitted to public discourse by someone who practices political oversight in this country, personally and inadvertently made our Judiciary a participant in what is obviously an election battle within the ruling party,” Pambo said.
He added that it was not Zondo’s place to respond to Sisulu as she is far better placed to assess this country’s social and political conditions as someone tasked with that responsibility.
“In her political assessment, she has factored in the shortfalls of the Judiciary in economic, social and political change in the country. Therefore, the response by Zondo is not only a waste of our collective time; it is misguided, misplaced and only serves to prejudice Minister Sisulu and those who hold a public place in our society, who may hold similar views as her,” he added.
Pambo maintained that the party has often sighted the Judiciary’s pitfalls to a point where they have called for amendments where necessary.
“Zondo is effectively trying to outlaw political commentary by those who reside within the legislature, and that must be rejected with the contempt that it deserves. To critique the law and the failures of its custodians, does not make one a law-breaker. The only logical conclusion is that he is attempting to stifle Minister Sisulu’s political commentary because it is opposed to his vested interests in assuming the office of the Chief Justice. His vested interests can only survive if certain factions within the ruling party are ridiculed in public, using platforms that are not created to do so,” Pambo said.
The briefing was also followed by a barrage of attacks on social media directed towards Zondo. Many people questioned the briefing and Zondo’s end game.
Mzwanele Manyi tweeted: “The stunt by Zondo requires analysis 1. How can he launch an attack on the member of another arm of the State without following any process whatsoever? 2. Since when do judges hold press briefings to censor opinions of members of the public? 3. Is this to eliminate CR competitor?”
Kim Heller tweeted: “Wow A whole Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo calls a press conference to respond to an opinion piece written by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu Imagine if this same energy and focus was put into social and economic justice Cry the beloved Judiciary.”
The Remnant tweeted: “Zondo must just forget about Chief Justice post. He has proven once again that he doesn’t qualify as he is been driven by emotions and his agenda is not pure which is what president Zuma was avoiding in that gossip commission.”
Tshepo Kgadima tweeted: “#ActingChiefJustice #RaymondZondo Must Remain Exactly That; An #Actor! He Must Be Stopped from ascending to the plum job of Chief Justice in order for the #RuleOfLaw & #Constitution to survive. # Zondo’s tirade against #LindiweSisulu shows genuine lack of #Judicial temperament.”