January 13, 2005

Judiciary is working for change, says chief justice

The leadership of the judiciary is making "every effort" towards transformation in the institution, Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson has announced. By this statement, Chaskalson was reacting to a policy document issued by the ANC national executive, which said there was a need to transform the "collective mindset" of the judiciary to bring it into line with the aspirations of "the millions who engaged in struggle to liberate our country from white minority domination". In a follow-up statement, however, the ANC said it was disappointed by critical opposition and media response to the document, and that it had been misrepresented. "The statement is neither a 'threat' to judges nor an 'attack' on white judges, as some have claimed," the ANC put it. As Chaskalson also emphasised, the ANC document did not refer to "High Court judges" or to "white judges" as some media reports had suggested before. "It refers to the 'judiciary', which includes all judicial officers in all courts. Press reports to the contrary are therefore misleading," he said. According to him, there could be no doubt that the Constitution required the transformation of the judiciary, and the need for change was accepted by the great majority of the judiciary and the legal profession. "In view of the debate that has taken place in the media subsequent to the issuing of the statement by the ANC and relating to the question of whether the statement constitutes an attempt to interfere with the independence of the judiciary, I welcome the clarifying statements by the ANC and other political parties emphasising their belief in and support for the independence of the judiciary." (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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