Durban – President Cyril Ramaphosa has broken his silence about allegations that some judges were bribed to seal the CR17 documents related to his 2017 ANC presidential campaign made by his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, last week.
Zuma made an array of allegations against the Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who is heading the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, and North Gauteng Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba, who ordered the sealing of the CR17 documents in August 2019.
Zuma lambasted Justice Zondo for refusing his application to recuse himself and Judge Ledwaba for his August 2019 order to seal the documents.
In his allegations, Zuma said: “We sit with some judges who have assisted the incumbent president (Ramaphosa) to hide from society what, on the face of it, seem to be bribes obtained in order to win an internal ANC election. We sit with some judges who sealed those records simply because such records may reveal that some of them, while presiding in our courts, have had their hands filled with the proverbial 30 pieces of silver.”
Yesterday, Ramaphosa had none of it, and he urged people, including Zuma, who have evidence of wrongdoing by judges to report them to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) so that it could act against them.
In his weekly presidential column, Ramaphosa did not address Zuma by name. He wrote:
“We should therefore be concerned when those who occupy prominent positions in society make statements that demonstrate a disdain for the basic principles of our Constitution and the institutions established to defend our democracy.
“Of particular concern are recent utterances directed at the judiciary, in which some judges are accused, without any evidence, of pursuing interests other than the cause of justice. Judges have been accused of political agendas and some have even been accused of accepting bribes.”
Ramaphosa said such utterances were deeply disturbing, adding that if such claims were true it would mean that there were some within the judiciary who were failing to uphold the values and principles with which they had been entrusted.
Ramaphosa said the Constitution makes provision for such a possibility, saying that Parliament was empowered to remove judges who are found by the Judicial Service Commission to be guilty of gross misconduct.
“The Judicial Service Commission is a carefully constituted body, which includes representatives from the judiciary but also the legal profession, academia and Parliament. There are clear processes established in law to deal with allegations of misconduct against members of the judiciary.
“Anyone who has evidence of any wrongdoing by any judge should make use of the avenues provided in our Constitution and in our law to ensure that appropriate action is taken,” he said.
Ramaphosa added that without the presentation of evidence to support these claims, and unless referred to the relevant authorities, all that such allegations did was to undermine the judiciary and the important function that it performed in a democracy.
“Of course, South Africa is a free country, with a Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression and opinion. However, when some in positions of responsibility choose to use those freedoms to undermine our constitutional order, they should be reminded of the possible consequences of their utterances.
“One of these possible consequences is the erosion of trust in the judiciary and our constitutional order,” Ramaphosa said.
He said people should not take attacks on the judiciary lightly, adding that “such attacks shake the very foundations of our constitutional democracy. Unless supported by evidence, such claims undermine confidence in our courts, and weaken our constitutional order.”