Quote of the week

An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.

Plasket AJ
Victoria Park Ratepayers' Association v Greyvenouw CC and others (511/03) [2003] ZAECHC 19 (11 April 2003)
27 November 2006

ANC more important than the Constitution?

Mr Jacob Zuma is today reported in Die Burger as saying that the ANC is more important than even the Constitution and that ANC members should not use the Constitution to attack each other.

If this is accurately reported, it is the final proof that Mr Zuma really is not fit to become the President of South Africa. In fact, I think anyone who genuinely believes that his or her organisation is more important than the Constitution (and can therefore be disregarded when dealing with organisation members) should not hold any public office in South Africa.

I would not even want such a person to be given an estate’s agent’s licence.

No wonder Mr. Zuma is in trouble with the law. If one thinks one’s own organisation is above the highest law of the land, it should not come as a surprise to find oneself of the wrong side of the criminal law.

Section 83 of the Constitution states that the President must “uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic”. If Mr Zuma were t be elected President will he always uphold, defend and respect the Constitution – or only when it does not hurt or affect members of the ANC?

Maybe Mr. Zuma was misquoted.

Maybe he did not mean to undermine the basic tenets of the Rule of Law, a principle that states at the very least that no one or no institution is above the law. Maybe he only meant that while the ANC members must always obey the Constitution and other legal rules they must love the ANC more than the Constitution and the law.

But even then I would say that it is irresponsible (and very un-statesmanlike) to tell supporters that your party is more important than the Constitution. It undermines respect for that Constitution and sends a signal that the party is above the law.

This is not a signal we want to send to councillors who sit on tender committees and must decide whether to award the tender to their ANC friend or to the most deserving applicant.

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