Posted on Thursday, 09 July 2015 17:18

South Africa's president Zuma calms down under siege judiciary

By Crystal Orderson in Cape Town

South African President Jacob Zuma has maintained that his government respects the independence of the judiciary amid concerns over a spate of public attacks of judges by his administration.

Zuma spoke after the country's chief justices and other legal experts met in Johannesburg to discuss an ongoing spate of attacks against the country's judiciary by some politicians.

judges like others should be susceptible to criticism but it should be fair and in good faith

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) and some Cabinet have attacked members of the judiciary over the past few weeks after court rulings went against the government.

In an unprecedented meeting, members of the judiciary led by the country's chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogeng said the criticism "had the potential to delegitimise the courts."

Mogoeng said "judges like others should be susceptible to criticism but it should be fair and in good faith".

Zuma said he also believed in the "strengthening of the existing good working relations between the two arms of the State."

ANC's secretary general Gwede Mantashe led the charge in attacking the judiciary especially following the furore over the government's handling of Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir's International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant.

Al Bashir's presence at an African Union summit in South Africa last month caused uproar after a local court ordered his arrest.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant in 2009 accusing al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the conflict in Darfur.

Al Bashir, who is wanted on five counts of crimes against humanity, was not arrested in South Africa despite the country being a signatory to the ICC treaty.

Al-Bashir has continued to travel in spite of the arrest warrant, although most of his visits since his indictment have been to non-ICC states.

But Mantashe reportedly accused the judiciary of "overreaching" and "contradicting the interest of the state versus judiciary".

The South African Communist Party leader and Higher Education minister, Blade Nzimande said they were not "attacking the judiciary but rather debating the issue".

The Chief Justice has requested a meeting with Zuma to discuss the attacks.

The Presidency said it has "noted the request of the Chief Justice to meet with President Jacob Zuma" to discuss the concerns of the judiciary pertaining to relations between the executive and the judiciary arms of the State.

The Presidency said it would attend to the matter as soon as Zuma returns from the BRICS summit in Ufa, Russia.

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