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.
Just received the following statement from the judges of the Constitutional Court. Surely now the JP is toast? Is he out of his mind to try and influence judges in the Constitutional Court on an issue to be decided by them?
A complaint that the Judge President of the Cape High Court, Judge John Hlophe, has approached some of the judges of the Constitutional Court in an improper attempt to influence this Court’s pending judgment in one or more cases has been referred by the judges of this Court to the Judicial Service Commission, as the constitutionally appointed body to deal with complaints of judicial misconduct.
The complaint relates to the matters of Thint (Pty) Ltd v National Director of Public Prosecutions and Others (CCT 89/07), JG Zuma and Another v National Director of Public Prosecutions and Others (CCT 91/07), Thint Holdings (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd and Another v National Director of Public Prosecutions (CCT 90/07) and JG Zuma v National Director of Public Prosecutions (CCT 92/07). Argument in these matters was heard in March 2008. Judgment was reserved in all four matters. The Court has not yet handed down judgment.
We stress that there is no suggestion that any of the litigants in the cases referred to in paragraph 1 was aware of or instigated this action. The judges of this Court view conduct of this nature in a very serious light.
is a democratic state, founded on certain values. These include constitutional supremacy and the rule of law. This is stated in section 1 of our Constitution. The judicial system is an indispensible component of our constitutional democracy. South Africa
In terms of section 165 of the Constitution the courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law, which they must apply impartially and without fear, favour or prejudice. No person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of the courts. Organs of state must assist and protect the courts to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the Courts.
Each judge or acting judge is required by item 6 of schedule 2 of the Constitution, on the assumption of office, to swear an oath or solemnly affirm that she or he will uphold and protect the Constitution and will administer justice to all persons alike without fear, favour or prejudice, in accordance with the Constitution and the law. Other judicial officers or acting judicial officers must swear or affirm in terms of national legislation.
Any attempt to influence this or any other Court outside proper court proceedings therefore not only violates the specific provisions of the Constitution regarding the role and function of courts, but also threatens the administration of justice in our country and indeed the democratic nature of the state. Public confidence in the integrity of the courts is of crucial importance for our constitutional democracy and may not be jeopardised.
This Court – and indeed all courts in our country – will not yield to or tolerate unconstitutional, illegal and inappropriate attempts to undermine their independence or impartiality. Judges and other judicial officers will continue – to the very best of their ability – to adjudicate all matters before them in accordance with the oath or solemn affirmation they took, guided only by the Constitution and the law.
30 May 2008
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