Judges Can't Be Trusted If They Bow to Power, Says Langa

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BYLINE: Political Bureau

and Sapa

An intimidated judiciary subservient to those who wield power cannot be trusted to deliver justice, Chief Justice Pius Langa has warned.

In such a scenario, he said, the judiciary became an extension of the executive.

South Africa's strong constitutional guarantees and public vigilance were, however, defending judicial independence.

Speaking at the opening of an international conference for judges and magistrates in Cape Town yesterday, Langa said the "crumbling" of the judiciary's independence could take place "silently" and "subtly", but would be just as damaging as "an attack by physical force".

He told more than 200 visiting jurists from the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges' Association that the debate about the independence of the judiciary - the conference theme - "has risen with some regularity in South Africa in recent months".

"I find it encouraging that it is being discussed with such vigour and it is clear that in many people's minds the independence of judicial officers is a fundamental aspect of democracy," he said.

He suggested that the "practical implications" of judicial independence had become "somewhat clouded by the heat these discussions have generated".

In his address, newly appointed Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Enver Surty warned against the erosion of the integrity of the judiciary. …