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.
This is such a grave charge that one should be careful to make it. In the past President Mbeki has always formally shown great respect for the Constitution and the law and one should not assume that he has abused his power. If it were to be true it would constitute a grave constitutional crisis because the President would have interfered with the working of the prosecuting authority and would have prevented it from exercising its powers “without fear favour or prejudice” as guaranteed by the Constitution.
It is therefore absolutely imperitave that the the President speaks to the nation immediately to dispell these ugly rumours. Every day that he allows the rumours to swirl, is a day in which we are forced to come closer to the conclusion that our President is not a true constitutionalist and that he would be prepared to abuse his power to interfere with the workings of the criminal justice system. This would confirm all the conspiracy theories bandied about by the Zuma supporters and could easily set us on a very dangerous path towards disrespect for the Rule of Law.
If the rumours are all untrue and the President assures us accordingly, then the harm could be minimised. If he fails to dispell the rumours, then he would at best have shown utter contempt for both us, the electorate, and the constitution which requires him to uphold and protect its provisions. His silence is undermining the constitution and our respect of it.
As I am out of the country (in Amsterdam) I might be missing something – why are people not more upset, toyi-toying in the streets, storming Parliament? – but it seems to me the continuous rumours is a real disaster and a real crisis for our young democracy. It is poisoning our political system and may do it irreparable harm because it will make us distrust our leaders and the system. If our Presidnet cannot see this, or if he thinks that he does not have to deal with it, he is not worth the name of President.
Speak to us, Mr President. We voted you into office and you owe us an explanation.