Let's Think

Zuma out-foxed by Malema on Women’s Day

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It was the 103rd celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) last week Wednesday. Leading with his chin, President Jacob Zuma allowed himself to be out-foxed on the day by EFF-leader Julius Malema.

President left himself open for a few sucker-punches from the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on the day before IWD by attacking him for missing an opportunity to appoint a female, who was acting as  Deputy Chief Justice, in the permanent position.

Master political strategist

One need not be a supporter of the EFF, its leader or its policies to recognise, that Malema and/or his advisers are masters of political strategy, and particularly of the crucial element of timing.

On this occasion, they did not disappoint with a letter in the name of leader Malema – clearly written by someone well versed in legalese – delivered to President Zuma at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

In the letter the following points are made – emphasis added by us to indicate telling gaps taken by the EFF – starting with the statement: “On behalf of the EFF collective, I reject this move for reasons which are set out hereunder.

  • “The content of your letter does not suggest that your proposal is at a formative stage. I have reached this determination in that you have not provided sufficient reasons in support of the proposed name to allow consultees to understand them and respond adequately, except to mention that you are complying with the Constitution to “consult” us;
  • “The process does not appear to be substantively fair, nor does it have the appearance of fairness. In all respect, it does not appear to be in good faith but rather to cajole leaders of political parties in a fate-accomplice manner. It does not appear that you will in any way provide good reasons for your decision, nor conscientiously take into account our views;
  • “You have not provided candid explanations of the factors or criteria which you have considered important on the proposal you are consulting on;
  • “The appointment of members of the judiciary is one of the major tools through which the judicial system and fraternity can be transformed. Furthermore, the appointment of members of the judiciary should be aligned with, and espouse constitutional values such as equality and the rule of law;
  • “To this end, I wish to remind you of section 174(2) of the Constitution on the appointment of judicial officers which provides that: “The need for the judiciary to reflect broadly the racial and gender composition of South Africa MUST be considered when judicial officers are appointed”;
  • “The word “must” (as opposed to the word “may”), in this particular instance, is peremptory, therefore meaning that you have no discretion to deviate from the factors mentioned therein, more so that the majority in the Constitutional Court are males and the Chief Justice is a male;
  • “This, together with your non-compliance with the factors alluded to i.e. the absence of the consideration criteria employed and candid explanation for considering Justice Zondo, questions the constitutionality of your rationality, albeit at a supposedly pre-decision stage;
  • “In the absence of any explanation, as is the case, I am left with no option but to conclude that your decision to appoint Justice Zondo is anti-women empowerment and development in that it directly overlooks a senior, seasoned black woman, Justice Bess Nkabinde with sufficient experience and is already acting in the position of Deputy Chief Justice;
  • “When you, Mr. Zuma spoke about women leadership of our country, and that South Africa is ready to be led by a woman, we did not realise that this was limited to your ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Justice Bess Nkabinde is a capable black woman who also deserves us to show confidence in her and, as a result, in all black women.
  • “We are not opposed to Justice Zondo as a judge, as a matter of fact we have great confidence in him. However, it is our strong held view that the chance must be given to a black woman to inspire and advance the gender struggle against patriarchy in our judicial system and the country as a whole. In addition, there are other Justices that have served in the Constitutional Court longer than Justice Zondo, like Justice Sisi Khampepe who is also a black woman and seasoned judge; and
  • “Failure to appoint Justice Bess Nkabinde as a black woman, you are implying, directly or indirectly, intentionally or not, that as a woman, she is only fit to "act" and not be permanent.”

            The letter then goes on to state amongst other:

  • “ …the question you must answer is, after meeting all the qualifications, what exactly should black women do to be appointed to positions of authority and responsibility? We hope, the answer will not be that they must be your ex-wives; and
  • “Alternatively, we hope that your preference not to appoint Justice Bess Nkadinde is not her punishment for disclosing that the Judge President of the Western Cape High Court, John Hlophe tried to influence her on the matter of your corruption charges. This, Mr. Zuma, would disqualify you from even making this appointment.

We think

We think another take-away for President Zuma, and other political leaders in the country, is that Julius Malema has clearly surrounded himself with a close circle of top-flight advisers, and most importantly, he is listening to them.

Also read: Shattering before realignment of SA politics

by Piet Coetzer

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