Sisulu Consults Legal Team as Zondo Responds to Tourism Minister's Attack on Judiciary
Tourism Minister made an Attack on SA's Judiciary. Photo: Twitter / Lindiwe Sisulu

Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Wednesday evening: “I have noted the comments made by the Acting Chief Justice Zondo and they will be engaged with at an appropriate time in an appropriate platform.” Judge Raymond Zondo held a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon to respond to a scathing opinion piece by Sisulu, attacking the judiciary, in which she insinuated that black judges were ‘house negroes’ amongst other insults.

The op-ed titled “Lindiwe Sisulu: Hi Mzansi, have we seen justice?” was published by Independent Online on 7 January 2022. Sisulu wrote: “The most dangerous African today is the mentally colonised African. And when you put them in leadership positions or as interpreters of the law, they are worse than your oppressor. They have no African or Pan African inspired ideological grounding. Some are confused by foreign belief systems. In America, these interpreters are called the House Negroes…”

Today Zondo said her unwarranted attack was “probably the worst insult that has been levelled against the judiciary”. He said he was not playing into the political gallery and that he hopes she’ll have the “decency to withdraw the insult”.

Zondo said her article had no facts or analysis supporting her accusations. “It’s just accusations, insults to the judiciary.”

He said “it should not be acceptable in a constitutional democracy such as ours that a member of parliament and a member of the executive” be able to publish something without facts like this.

“We do not say, even now, that we should not be criticised,” said Zondo. “We accept that we may be criticised but we say criticism should be fair and should have a proper factual basis but this is not criticism.”

He also said that if their work “brings about the kinds of insults that Ms Sisulu has heaped on us we will not change. We will still continue to do our job the way we are required to do it in accordance with our oath of office”.

Taking to Twitter, Minister Sisulu said: “I am in consultation with my legal team.”

DA Calls for Ramaphosa to Instruct Sisulu to Retract and Issue Public Apology

Meanwhile the DA has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the Head of the Executive, to instruct the Sisulu, to retract and issue a public apology for undermining the Judiciary and casting aspersions on its integrity in her recent opinion piece.

DA Leader John Steenhuisen said: “We will also call on the minister to appear before Parliament’s Ethics Committee where she will be asked to explain how, as a Member of Parliament, she reconciles her attack on the Judiciary with the Parliamentary Code of Conduct. This Code stipulates, among others, that members “act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in them”.”

The Code also demands that members place the public interest above their own interests.

The DA says that as an incumbent member of the National Executive Minister Sisulu violated the Executive Code of Ethics.

Steenhuisen said in a statement on Wednesday: “Simply put, Minister Sisulu is not fit for Cabinet, and anywhere else her job would be on the line. In a functional democracy a member of the Executive who launches a calculated and damaging attack on the integrity of the Judiciary would be summarily fired by the Head of the Executive. But we also know that President Ramaphosa demands very little in terms of accountability and ethics from his ministers and is unlikely to take such action.

“A retraction and apology, however, are the very least he should demand. Failure to do so will leave the generality of South Africans, who were appalled by Minister Sisulu’s op-ed, with no option but to conclude that the President of South Africa condones her actions.”

President Ramaphosa has not yet commented on the matter, although Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele told News24: “While among ourselves as Cabinet ministers, there are people who cast aspersions on [the] Constitution, the immediate thing to a foreign investor is that ‘can I rely upon those people to protect me through the Constitution they have no confidence in?’. It is not a small matter for a minister to cast aspersions on the Constitution, which she made an oath to protect.”

He said “we have an intelligent president who knows when to talk to his ministers, and I am also very careful not to pretend to say I know what he is going to say.”