Judiciary hits back

The Office of the Judiciary says it is disturbing that some of the attacks on it came from public office-bearers and elected legislators.

19 February 2020 | Justice

The Office of the Judiciary has defended itself against “undue attacks”, including a Landless People's Movement (LPM) allegation that it has been captured by the ruling party.

This follows a Supreme Court ruling read out by Chief Justice Peter Shivute recently that said the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) during the November 2019 presidential election was unconstitutional, but that the court decided it would not nullify the poll.

Last year independent presidential candidate Dr Panduleni Itula challenged the use of EVMs in the presidential poll without a verifiable paper trail, and wanted the Supreme Court to nullify the election and order a rerun.

The Judiciary said in a statement issued by spokesperson Ockert Jansen it was being portrayed as “biased” and favouring the ruling party or incapable of delivering independent and impartial judgements.

Jansen added it was especially disturbing that some of these attacks came from public office-bearers and elected legislators.

He emphasised that it is not customary for the Judiciary to make public statements in defence of itself, adding that this is usually done by civil society and other organs of the state whose responsibility it is to protect and safeguard the dignity and effectiveness of the courts.

“These attacks are however becoming all the more persistent and insidious and may create the impression that the Judiciary's silence amounts to an acceptance or indeed justification,” he said.

LPM's Ivan Skrywer claimed yesterday the Judiciary is too close to the ruling party to be impartial.

“Why don't the judges renounce themselves from Swapo publicly? They are known to be close friends of Swapo. Some of them were conducting Swapo elections not long ago.”

Swapo stalwart Nahas Angula also questioned the Supreme Court judgment, saying the ruling is “problematic” and is abusing the public's trust.

“When we look at how Chief Justice Peter Shivute was forced to do some legal acrobatics to protect the system, that ruling is problematic and leaving some of us with questions,” said Angula.

Skrywer insisted that the Judiciary and Shivute are compromised, emphasising that the Judiciary is in place to uphold the ruling party's status quo, the same way the apartheid system was maintained and prolonged by apartheid judges.

“In the Itula decision, the Judiciary dismally failed to protect and defend the constitution and the intrinsic democratic values espoused in that document. They favoured the status quo and took a conservative positivist legal route, as it was in apartheid era. They failed to inject a transformative constitutional interpretation, and did not uphold the spirit and the tenants of the constitution,” Skrywer added.

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JEMIMA BEUKES

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