Erratic judges, rogue lawyers undermine justice

What is our country and legal authority coming to, and what are we going to do with rogue lawyers and erratic judges who believe they can do no wrong, even if they have been found to have committed a gross misconduct by a statutory body such as the Judicial Service Commission?

Could these failures be seen as patterns of lapses in a judicial system, perhaps driven by politics of resistance in which all authority is frowned upon.

The concept of moral uprightness in our country, meant to regulate human activities, no longer holds firm.

By way of expanding on the proposition, might it be that encroaching tides of politics of lawlessness may be at work to undermine and erode the rule of law for the sake of destabilisation and political gain?

If this be the case, then this could point to tell-tale signs of a country in moral decline – destined to reach its highest point of moral decay and bankruptcy, and so in need of a political revolution of the soul to reverse the trend.

Should the country be concerned that all these defects could be calculated at bedevilling human relations, which includes law and order.

I meander to underscore and bemoan the dearth of moral compass that has visited the country’s legal profession. And we could pause with a probing question: What ought to be done to arrest the rot that seems to encroach our legal profession – which ought to help to hold together our constitutional democratic order from implosion?

The judiciary, though under political pressure from some quarters on the so-called ultra-left, continues to be on solid ground, with its independence solidly entrenched. The country takes pride in some of the great legal minds who have with distinction walked through the corridors of the country’s courts. There is no doubt they served the country with great dedication and loyalty.

Lawyers and the judiciary ought to serve as a defence wall against any form of injustice.

Lawyers, even during the far away days of political oppression and colonialism, did not defend political causes, but stood on the side of justice, and the eradication of unjust laws embedded in the apartheid system – and did so with grace and honour and legal reverence and dexterity.

The function of a lawyer is to help a judicial officer – a judge or a magistrate – arrive at a legally fair decision. Therefore, the implications of legal sloppiness on the part of lawyers are an aberration that should not be tolerated.

In recent times, the country has witnessed scenes where court was turned into a circus, with more theatrics, and less sound legal acumen, being the order of the day. Such scenes have to be frowned upon by the public. Mediocrity should not be tolerated in public life.

In the same way that society is justified to revolt against misrule and inefficiency in running all tiers of government, inefficiency on the part of legal practitioners should not be tolerated.

Courts make laws every day by the judgments arrived at by judges. In that process, lawyers play a crucial role. The sound legal expertise by lawyers is crucial for judicial officers to formulate sound judgments, thereby contributing to the establishment of sound jurisprudence and precedence.

When lawyers make claims, such claims must be supported by evidence. Judicial officers should at all times strive for fairness. But it is intolerable for lawyers to be untruthful and controversial and to peddle untruths to elevate their status.

Where a lawyer claims to be “bewitched”, those who allege it must prove it. And one must wonder how one can prove the truthfulness or otherwise of such an irrationality.

What should a judge make of such claims? What should be their response, except to wonder of the invalidity of it all.


  • Mdhlela is a freelance journalist, an Anglican priest, ex-trade unionist and former publications editor of SA Human Rights Commission journalist.

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