South Africans are not treating the theft of 15 computers from the office of the Chief Justice as a common robbery, with political parties and civil groups convinced that it was an orchestrated move meant to intimidate and attack the judiciary.
On Saturday (18 March) thieves broke into the office of the Chief Justice and stole 15 computers containing sensitive information relating to cases and other data.
The Democratic Alliance and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) have both noted the suspicious timing of the incident – after a string of court rulings against high-profile political players and government officials.
The most notable of these is last week’s ruling against social development minister Bathabile Dlamini in the social grants mess, which played out under her watch.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng described the matter as a crisis orchestrated by Dalmini’s “absolute incompetence”.
On social media, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said that the crime must be seen as intimidation of the judiciary, and said it was clearly orchestrated by someone in power – with his guess being state security minister David Mahlobo being the culprit.
The ANC also described the crime as a direct attack on South Africa’s judiciary, but rejected Steenhuisen’s claim Mahlobo was behind it, saying the DA whip must give proof or otherwise apologise to the security minister.
Steenhuisen doubled down on his statement and said that the proximity to the ConCourt’s grants ruling made it clear that the crime was politically motivated and Mahlobo was the most likely culprit.
This sentiment was echoed by the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu who said that it was his “rational suspicion” that Mahlobo was the one behind the break-in.
The parties have called for an independent investigation into the break in.