SA Judiciary rendered spineless by Humanism and Relativism – Chuck Stephens

For decades South Africans have been complaining that the Judiciary has lost its teeth. Paul Hoffman wrote that the corrupt have hollowed out the machinery of the justice system and that those who are left within it, are powerless. Chuck Stephens argues that justice in the country has become a greyscale, softened by Relativism and Humanism. The Judiciary has been culture-jammed and kneaded into a system that lacks a moral compass. ‘When God at the centre is replaced by humans at the centre, all you get is a tug-of-war between interest-groups’, says Stephens. – Melani Nathan

A judiciary in the context of no right or wrong

Chuck Stephens*

The system of human rights is displacing the Judaeo-Christian value-system. This is a new world of Relativism, where there is no God, just a scale to weigh up both sides of every dispute.

Even the Truth and Reconciliation Commission operated on some fundamental assumptions. If you confessed your crime, you would be eligible for amnesty. The concept of confession and forgiveness assumes that there is a right and wrong. You break the law – you are guilty. But those days are gone.

Today it is just one person’s rights against the other’s rights. There are no more absolutes. And the Judiciary is reeling under this fundamental shift of consciousness. The players keep passing the ball – no one ever shoots. So no one ever scores. No judge seems to want to pronounce that someone is guilty! Why? It could be because they have been “bought” with some of those billions of Rand that were leaked out of the State Security Agency with the specific remit of weakening the Judiciary. Or it could be that the nefarious mafias have threatened the judge’s family. Or it could be that the judge has bought into a framework that says that the Judiciary itself has not been “relativised” enough and has to adjust. The dismissal of Bongo’s case by Judge Hlophe is a great example of this synergy.

The two factions that have gridlocked the ANC are also culture-jamming the Judiciary. The more conservative forces, still trying to champion the Judaeo-Christian notion of right and wrong, see Public Protector Busi Mkhwebane as a sycophant of the fight-back faction driven by Jacob Zuma and Ace Magashule. They can’t exactly say that, so they rather allege incompetence. They just say that she is not “fit for service”.

Meanwhile, the fight-back faction attacks the most conservative judges like the chief justice. Again, they dare not target his impeccable track record. They rather allege that he is a bad influence because of his religious views. He believes in God! So he must believe in absolutes, and there cannot be any right or wrong in the brave new world of Relativism. Go after him for his personal views on Israel or the Covid vaccine. Discredit him, so that he can be replaced with another sycophant.

How can the Judiciary let Jacob Zuma’s trial delay for 18 years? There is interference and a strategy to weaken the Judiciary. That is part of what State Capture is. That is what it does.

Look at Robert Tsambo’s dispute with his ex-future daughter-in-law. The High Court agreed with Tsambo that she was not married to the late, great HHP. The Supreme Court of Appeal saw it differently – that they were married. Because customary law is “dynamic”. In other words, because there are no absolutes. The rituals of customary marriage can vary from one ethnic group to another, and from one decade to another. They are not “static”. That is Relativism. We await the Constitutional Court’s verdict on this one, but one thing is for sure – the Judiciary has no backbone. It is wishy-washy.

Welcome to the reality of Humanism. When God at the centre is replaced by humans at the centre, all you get is a tug-of-war between interest-groups. Zuma will now try to sell a majority of voters the line that the Judiciary needs “transformation”. That it is reactionary.

Have South Africans connected the dots? Do they realize that all this indecision, even confusion about the Law is a result of the displacement of Judaeo-Christian values with Humanism and Relativism?

Ironically, when the Dutch first colonized the Cape, they practised slavery. Mostly they imported slaves from Madagascar. But by 1819 the British had definitively replaced the Dutch and the Anti-Slavery Movement was rising. A missionary called Dr John Philip built a “slave chapel” in Capetown that year for the 7 000 slaves in the city by then. Not to mention all the work that missionaries did to expose the atrocities committed by settlers against the Khoisan. For example, the “Black Circuit” – a court that was set up in Algoa Bay in 1812 by governor Sir John Craddock – in response to intelligence collected from missionaries like Johannes Vanderkemp and John Read of the Bethelsdorp mission. Over 1000 settlers, Khoisan and Xhosa were called as witnesses in its first year. It was unprecedented – 207 years before the Zondo Commission!

The missionary intel was also shared with William Wilberforce, the driver of the Anti-Slavery Bill in the British parliament. When the Afrikaners were recruiting Boers to join the Great Trek, they drew up a manifesto. One item on the list was that they wanted to leave this pro-poor ethos of the missionaries behind.

For all its flaws, the Judaeo-Christian system challenged the status quo – with a firm belief that there IS a right and wrong. It put morality on a par with economics. Karl Marx was only born in 1818 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was only adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

So we applaud the recent SACC rebuke of Jacob Zuma and Ace Magashule for trying to weaken the Judiciary as a strategy of self-preservation. That is what they are up to, nothing more. And we applaud the loyal opposition for its willingness to collaborate with the Ramaphosa faction of the ANC – and for adding explicitly that they would not work with David Mabuza. As we also applaud Robert Tsambo for standing up for aboriginal rights and not letting gender rights weaken them. Both are enshrined in the Constitution.

Trading away our cherished Judaeo-Christian values for Humanism, Relativism and Marxism would be a huge mistake. We need freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. And in a Democracy that is predicated on the separation of powers, you cannot have a Relativist ruling party coexisting with an Absolutist Judiciary. That is why the ANC needs to find its way back to the values of John Dube and Albert Luthuli. And to get out the orange onesies for Jacob Zuma and Ace Magashule.

  • Chuck Stephens is Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership and writes in his own capacity

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