ANC social media posts using an image of Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya to promote the party line on ‘transformation’, had to be removed within hours on Saturday after a sharp repudiation from the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ).

News24 reports that a tweet posted at 07:30 on Saturday morning, the first of a two-day voter registration weekend, read: ‘Don’t let your voice go unheard. Register to vote ANC and make a difference in your community and South Africa. Visit your local voting station. #RegisterToVoteANC #ANCatWork.’ Accompanying it was a picture of Justice Maya in her judicial robes with the words: ‘The future is transformation. Justice Mandisa Maya (First female Deputy Chief Justice).’

In its statement, the OJC said the misuse of the image ‘was not authorised by Deputy Chief Justice Maya or the OCJ’, adding: ‘For the record, Deputy Chief Justice Maya is not a member of the ANC or any other political party.’

It pointed out that the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judges from belonging any political party.

‘This unauthorised use of the Deputy Chief Justice’s image has the potential to unduly bring the judiciary into disrepute as well undermining the integrity of the judiciary as section 165(2) of the Constitution provides that the courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law, which they must apply without fear, favour or prejudice.

‘It is expected that those responsible for this unauthorised use of the Deputy Chief Justice’s image immediately desist and remove it from all online platforms where it has been published, and to publicly and unreservedly apologise to the Deputy Chief Justice for this unfortunate incident.’

The Democratic Party’s spokesperson on justice, Glynnis Breytenbach, also levelled stinging criticism at the ruling party’s ‘disrespectful’ campaign, saying that while the ANC had apologized for the ‘egregious misuse’ of the Deputy Chief Justice Maya’s image, ‘it is essential to emphasise that an apology alone cannot erase the severe damage caused by such actions. The ANC’s blatant disregard for the independence and credibility of the judiciary is a matter of great concern.’

ANC leader President Cyril Ramaphosa admitted on Saturday: ‘It should not have happened. We already said that judges are independent and that they must be given the respect, and that is the position that is due to them to be arbiters of the nation.’