The African Union’s Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) recently notified Liberty Fighters Network (LFN) that its complaint of 2019 would soon be tabled. In it, LFN criticises members of the South African judiciary in that it alleges major irregularities in the adjudication of a lawsuit involving ca.15 billion Rands and a military firm, ATS.
This announcement comes while LFN is entangled in a dispute involving several judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal who recently sidestepped LFN’s Application asking them to judge themselves, so as to whether they should or should not step down, due to bias. LFN had perceived the bench to not be sufficiently independent, as it should be, on the grounds that the bench had enforced a virtual hearing, even though they had not yet adjudicated the validity of the legal basis for virtual hearings, in the same matter. “When we submitted our Application, we only had a reasonable apprehension that they might be biased,” LFN President De Beer says. “After seeing how the procedures were side stepped, we now have a proper suspicion of irregularity at play.” At the same time, another Application is well underway before the Constitutional Court. There, LFN President Reyno De Beer asks the apex Court to set aside its earlier order, made in March. “That order, incorrectly, refused us leave to appeal under very peculiar circumstances,” De Beer says.
In the complaint before the AU Commission, the Constitutional Court also plays a role. It had refused a Leave Application, stating that “it bears no prospect of success”. ATS’ sole director, Mr van Heerden, just like De Beer and LFN, had been representing himself and his company.
LFN’s complaint accuses the judiciary of being biased; after a Judicial Service Commission committee, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Zondo, had confirmed the dismissal of an earlier complaint lodged against a Gauteng judge. LFN alleges that the female judge first intentionally disallowed Van Heerden to represent his firm as its “other self.” Then, ATS lost the case in which the opponent, another military firm, had submitted false claims; because ATS had not been before the court to set the record straight. However, when it came to costs, the judge inexplicably changed her mind and declared ATS to be the “other self” of its director and then burdened him with costs, otherwise to be borne by the firm. The affair later culminated at the JSC were Deputy Chief Justice Zondo, after having been presented with the full record, ruled that the complaint against the judge related to “…the merits of the judgment… and [that] therefore the complaint was correctly dismissed…” LFN member Van Heerden had clearly been getting one cold shoulder after another by the judiciary, with disastrous consequences to his livelihood.
“The legal fraternity has essentially captured the courts for those who have the luxury of being able to afford an expensive legal team,” says LFN President De Beer. “The public should realise that, if there was ever a right time to look at the entire legal system of our country and ask the question whether it is fully suited to protect our Constitution, and specifically the Bill of Rights. This time is now. And if the answer is ‘no’, things must change.”
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