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Defend our Democracy to Lamola: People who committed crimes ‘must go in peace to prison’

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola receives a memorandum from Reverend Frank Chikane, from Defend our Democracy campaign. Picture: Ministry of Justice.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola receives a memorandum from Reverend Frank Chikane, from Defend our Democracy campaign. Picture: Ministry of Justice.

  • The Defend our Democracy campaign was launched last week. 
  • A delegation from the campaign has met with Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. 
  • The group says it has garnered over 8 500 signatures of support. 

A delegation from the Defend our Democracy campaign met with Justice Minister Ronald Lamola on Wednesday to deliver a statement, which details its “key calls”.  

The campaign was launched last week and has, so far, garnered over 8 500 signatures of support. It has also been endorsed by over 50 organisations from various sectors. 

“The campaign was initiated to defend our constitutional democracy, demand accountability for capture and corruption, support the upholding of the rule of law and call for an end to unsubstantiated attacks levelled at the judiciary,” a statement read. 

The movement is also concerned with former president Jacob Zuma’s defiance of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry and the Constitutional Court.  

During the meeting on Wednesday, Reverend Frank Chikane told the minister there was a “threat to our democracy and a threat to destabilise democracy because people don’t want to go to jail”. 

EXPLAINER | Defend Our Democracy SA: What is it? What is it hoping to achieve?

The state must make sure that people, who committed crimes or worked outside the law, must be accountable. We are not going to allow them to bring down the country with us.

He also said those who committed the alleged crimes “must just go in peace to prison”.

What we are dealing with are criminals destabilising the country because they do not want to go to jail.

Lamola agreed with the group that the Constitution should continue to be protected.

He said:

As the department, we work with various civil societies in advancement of the Constitution and in defence of the Constitution on the various rights that are enshrined in the Constitution. Hence, it is important that the Constitution continues as a living document to be protected – and we have always said that we view the Constitution as sacrosanct and the rule of law.

“It is a sacrosanct component of our democracy, which we all have to respect and adhere to,” Lamola said.

He said South Africans should allow the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the judiciary to do its job, without fear or favour. 

“The unfortunate part is that [the NPA] is doing [its] job with very serious fiscal constraints and very limited resources, which for the first time in almost five years we have now enabled them to start recruitment to fill some of the posts, but also to get some specialists that may assist them in some of the complex and difficult cases that they are handling.”

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We also want to say to yourselves [the delegation] that the concerns you share are the concerns that the department shares. All of us, government and the people of this country, have a responsibility to ensure that the Constitution remains protected.

The group says it will, on Thursday, show support to the “rule of law” when the Constitutional Court hears Zuma’s contempt of court case.

During its media briefing last week, the group called on South Africans to “vigorously oppose” the threat to democracy and defend the Constitution.

ANC veteran Sheila Sisulu read out a statement, which said the former president, who was once described in a Constitutional Court judgment as embodying the “constitutional being” of the country, was now defying the same court.

She added the “astonishing defiance” of the court order not only “violates the law, but assails the Constitution itself”.

“While the normal deliberative institutional processes necessitated by such an attack are underway, the former president, frustrated by the impeccable conduct of an independent judiciary, has now launched a malicious attack on the judiciary and, in particular, on the Constitutional Court, a cornerstone of the Constitution.

“The threat to the Constitution goes beyond that posed by an individual. It also illustrates how the individual embodies a political culture fundamentally antithetical of democracy.”

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