South Africa: Courts v the Executive - Constitutional Court Fails to Provide Judiciary With Certainty


One must accept that the dispute regarding the firing by former president Jacob Zuma of his finance minister Pravin Gordhan and deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas was no longer a live dispute and that the merits of the Zuma decision were not decided by the High Court. However, on the face of it, the High Court judgment appears to be a significant case of judicial overreach, trenching as it does on the domain of the executive powers.

On 30 March 2017, President Jacob Zuma announced changes to his Cabinet. Several ministers and deputy ministers, including the then minister of finance Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, were relieved of their ministerial duties. Zuma replaced them with minister Malusi Gigaba and deputy minister Sifiso Buthelezi. On the same day, the Presidency issued a statement which declared the reasons for the reshuffle.

Four days later, the Democratic Alliance launched an urgent review application to set aside the president's decision in the High Court. The grounds on which the application was based were that Zuma's decision was unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.

But, irrationality was the overarching basis. And, that application was brought in terms of rule 53 of the High Court rules...

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