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 The United Democratic Movement (UDM) has noted with grave concern the Government’s plans for a judicial complaints procedure to review judgements of the courts. As reported, this proposed procedure will establish parliamentary - that is political - oversight of the day to day functioning of the judiciary. This will be a clear negation of the separation of powers in our Constitution and therefore flagrantly unconstitutional and anti-democratic.

However, the UDM has in the past expressed concern regarding inter alia certain obviously inappropriate sentences being passed by courts on persons convicted of even the most heinous of crimes, among others in the context of rampant serious crimes of violence against women in our country. Against this background, we support the principle of the judiciary accounting in general to the people of the country, for which no provision exists at present. This should, however, be done with the utmost circumspection in order to avoid the further denigration of the Bench, to which it is being subjected by the Government and the majority party in Parliament and which is seriously detrimental to the administration of justice in general.

The UDM proposes that the Chief Justice be consulted in devising a system by which he might account to Parliament on the functioning of the judiciary and important related matters such as sentencing policy and the transformation of the Bench and make proposals to Parliament for improvement, if he should deem it appropriate to do so in that forum. The UDM will oppose any measure which would call individual judges and magistrates to account before Parliament, review or discuss any specific decision of any court or in any other way attempts to exert political influence on the courts. This would seriously undermine the independence of the judiciary and destroy the essence of our democracy and of our Constitution

In view of the extremely disturbing recent utterances of senior members of the Government and of the ruling party, we urgently request the President to publicly and clearly state his Government’s intentions in this regard and categorically reaffirm the independence of the judiciary and the supremacy of the Constitution over Parliament

Masilo Mabeta, MP

Cape Town
03 December 1999

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