Constitutional Hill

Apology to President Zuma

Last week on this Blog I critised President Jacob Zuma for purporting to appoint Adv Menzi Simelane as the National Director of Public Prosecutions and pointed out – correctly in my view – that the appointment shows an utter disregard for the Constitution and the law. In my criticism – which I believe to be valid and based on the proven facts and a correct interpretation of the law and the Constitution – I unfortunately reverted to the kind of intemperate language, which sadly has become all too common in our political discourse, by referring to our President as a “gangster”.
 
I regret using such intemperate language, which detracts from the substantive debate regarding the unfitness of Adv Menzi Simelane to hold office as the National Director of Public Prosecutions. I wish to apologise unreservedly to our President for the use of this intemperate language which, as the Presidency points out, does not contribute to the healthy and respectful debate so needed in our democracy.
 
However, I do call on our President to reconsider the appointment of Adv Menzi Simelane as the National Director of Public Prosecutions as this appointment is not in the interest of the country and the smooth running of the criminal justice system. Given the serious questions about Adv Simelane’s fitness to hold office, reasonable people – including myself – will continue to speculate about the true reasons for the appointment which indeed, shows a disregard for the law and the Constitution as well as for the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority.
  • Pierre De Vos

    Media statement

    Presidency responds to law professor’s remarks

    The appointment of Advocate Menzi Simelane as the National Director of Public Prosecutions has elicited various responses and heated up the country’s polity.

    In a vibrant democracy such as South Africa’s, this is to be expected. However, certain utterances – such as calling President Jacob Zuma a “gangster” – clearly go beyond the standards of decency and intelligent debate.

    Constitutional law professor Pierre de Vos has been quoted in the media as having said: “The appointment [of Advocate Simelane] shows an utter disregard for the Constitution and the law. It is nothing more than the actions of a gangster hell bent on protecting himself and his cronies. I feel ashamed that I have given our President the benefit of the doubt for all these months.” The assertions he made do indeed appear in his blog.

    The Presidency finds the statement shocking and despicable.

    Reference to the Head of State of the Republic of South Africa as a “gangster” does not show respect for the incumbent as an individual and also insults the Office that he holds.

    The Presidency welcomes issue-based debate and President Zuma encourages debate and the views of all, even those who disagree with him vehemently.
    It is our opinion that it is possible for constitutional law experts to differ with government and disagree without being disagreeable, and without making inciting statements or insulting utterances.
    President Zuma is known for encouraging mutual respect for political opponents and people who differ with him and for always observing diplomacy and decorum. It would not be asking too much to encourage Professor de Vos to embrace maturity and decency in expressing his anguish whenever the need arises.
    For enquiries please contact: Vusi Mona on 082 047 2260.
    ISSUED BY
    THE PRESIDENCY
    UNION BUILDINGS
    TSHWANE
    1 DECEMBER 2009

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Hmmm!

    Got smacked, eh!

  • Sne now Sine

    As a South African citizen who also has not taken lightly to your language Prof., I accept your apology. I accept that we sometimes say things in the heat of the moment which later turn out not to be acceptable. Nonetheless, your apology has been accepted…

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    I will congratulate the Professor for apparently considering earnestly the position which the Presidency has adopted. The Professor’s conduct is not without merit and is certainly not devoid of wisdom. And I will say also that under many circumstances, calling the President a gangster would be exceedingly unseemly.

    But all of us would have been justified in expecting the Presidency’s response given that it is guilty of a material oversight: we should not look at the Professor’s choice of words in isolation. Rather, the better view is that we should consider the circumstances surrounding the Professor’s choice of phraseology in order to properly determine whether the choice of words was truly inappropriate.

    I think that proper consideration of the surrounding circumstances here will render many people sensitive to a view which is in competition with the one advanced by the Presidency. I will try to capture that competing view with a question: if either Al Capone or John ‘yes nothing, but nothing, really sticks to Teflon’ Gotti were to return from the grave and through sorcery become the President of South Africa with (a) Zuma’s crew and (b) Zuma’s past, who would he have appointed as NDPP?

    So I think the Professor achieved the rare feet of being correct as regards competing scores. That is to say, some may reasonably consider whether the President has acted like a gangster. But the Professor has shown an appropriate measure of circumspection in apologising.

    It must be so nice to be right.

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    An open question to any blogger with the time and inclination: as regards the question of who to appoint as NDPP, what might a real gangster in Zuma’s position have done?

    (And if anyone dares to say that a gangster would have pushed to re-instate Vusi, well, that blogger gets to choose between the naughty corner and the sin-bin.)

  • Sine

    @ Leigh

    The unnecessary (in my view) qualification that you seem to be attaching to Prof.’s apology is eroding the impact of the apology as a whole. After reading your post, the apology sounds like this;

    “President Zuma, if I am wrong about calling you a gangster, I apologise.”

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Leigh says:
    December 1, 2009 at 9:08 am

    “That is to say, some may reasonably consider whether the President has acted like a gangster”.

    I have no doubt that no matter what our President does, that there will always be”some may reasonably consider whether the President has acted like a gangster”.

    And I have no doubt that no matter what the leader of another political party does there will be “some” who will consider that to be exemplary.

    We can all stop pretending that the “Stop Zuma” campaign has ended!

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Leigh says:
    December 1, 2009 at 9:14 am

    “what might a real gangster in Zuma’s position have done?”

    A real gangster as President of this country would have appointed an all male cabinet!

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Sne, thanks for the response – it is sincerely always a pleasure.

    I do not think that my sentiments erode the impact of the Professor’s apology given that the Professor has not attached any qualification.

    I merely offered an approach which I think competes with the one put forward by the Presidency. And in the spirit of open debate (which the Presidency claims it embraces), I do not think that my decision to do so discloses any impropriety. That is, I think one could contend that if the President behaves like a gangster – and many may believe that he did – it does not necessarily betray standards of intellectual rigour to say so.

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Maggs, you will have noticed that I specifically confined the inquiry here to the issue of the appointment of the NDPP. Thus, the introduction of the topic of cabinet appointment is irrelevant.

    But seeing that you are in the mood to pick a fight (and that is completely understandable given your ardent partisanship to Zuma), let me say this: gangsters have no respect for the rules. They have equally little regard for contrary opinions. And they do at times play with the truth but then act insulted when people courageously, and in all fairness, stand up to them.

    Simelane, encroached upon the NPA’s statutorily contemplated and constitutionally guaranteed prosecutorial independence. And in so doing he acted unlawfully. He also fibbed during cross examination and demonstrated a fairly contemptuous attitude towards constitutional rulings – which, incidentally, makes me very angry. Zuma and Radebe between them opted for this guy to be the NDPP.

    Law students, I am aware that many of you are looking forward to a well-deserved break. But if you will forgive, let us takes this back to FIRAC – however overrated the usefulness of that methodology may be. Come Maggs, let us apply the abovementioned general definition of a gangster’s tendencies to what we know about Zuma: the relevant rules say that the NDPP must be fit and proper. And by fit and proper, we can say safely that the prospective incumbent must be and honest and principled person of integrity. Plainly Simelane is not such a person. But Zuma, acting in a manner which runs counter to the rules here, appointed him anyway and will not openly reconsider despite the widespread and well-premised criticism of the decision.

    Given the forgoing, can we reasonably conclude that Zuma has acted like a gangster? I am not about to go out on a limb on my own. That is precisely why I invited others to tender there views. But the invitation for honest, issue-based and open debate (as embraced by the Presidency) is thrown back in my face when people opt for deflection.

  • Sine

    @ Leigh

    Thanks for your reply as well Leigh. You know I like interacting with you.

    I notice that the tone of your post is somewhat taking a downwards direction. There is a difference between labelling the constitutionally elected Head of State of the Republic of South Africa a ‘gangster’ and labelling his ‘actions’ and/or behaviour as similar to those of a gangster.

    It is one thing to have and duly exercise our freedoms entrenched in the Constitution but we need to be mindful of the fact that there is always a corollary to such freedoms, which corollary is called responsibility. Simply put, there is a right and there is an accompanying responsibility.

    Such a responsibility entails that in exercising our rights, we should be mindful of the existence of related rights and rights of our fellow human beings and take steps to protect the latter rights. Criticising the President is one thing but such criticism has to be conducted in a respectful manner and one which does not erode the respect accorded to the Office of the Presidency, the highest office in the land. The importance of respecting the Office of the Presidency was observed in the President of the RSA v Hugo judgment by the Concourt wherein the Concourt criticised the decision of the High Court of ordering the then President Nelson Mandela to give oral evidence in court in person about one of his official decisions relating to that case before the High Court.

    Apart from the aforegoing Leigh, name calling and mudslinging has never done any discussion or debate any good. Instead it clouds the real issues and focuses on collateral issues.

  • Peter

    Pierre – you should have responded that you have not been found guilty in this regard in a court of law, and hence have nothing to apologise for…

  • Peter L

    Prof
    It take a big person to genuinely and sincerely admit their mistakes and apologise, so cudos to you, sir.

    Your comments about Jackie Selebi’s appearance on a previous blog also had the same effect of diminishing the effectiveness of the argument put forward. In Rugby parlance, we should always play the ball, not the man (or woman!)

    Regarding the statement from the Presidency, who could fault the sentiments expressed?
    I can only whoelheartedly agree:

    “President Zuma is known for encouraging mutual respect for political opponents and people who differ with him and for always observing diplomacy and decorum. It would not be asking too much to encourage Professor de Vos to embrace maturity and decency in expressing his anguish whenever the need arises.”

    OK, so would the Presidency please explain why they do not also publicy take to task Julius Malema, ANCYL, YCL et al when they patently fail to observe even a modicum of “diplomacy and decorum” in their statements?

    Or is there one rule for the ANC and alliance members and another for everyone else?

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Leigh says:
    December 1, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Nice try!

    You raise this elsewhere “(a)nd as much as some may be loath to concede, Helen Zille was right: the appointment of Simelane is a classic case of cadre deployment”.

    Stop pretending that you’re other than a DA troll.

  • Snowman

    I don’t think that he is a gangster but certainly was / is on the take?

    I am delighted that the Presidency reads this blog. It seems to be an easier way to communicate with them that via their call centre.

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Peter L says:
    December 1, 2009 at 9:52 am

    “Prof
    It take a big person to genuinely and sincerely admit their mistakes and apologise, so cudos to you, sir”.

    Indeed.

    Pierre is a Constitutional Law expert.

    Prof Malema is an economic expert – so expect some errors from him re constitutional matters according to zanews!

    http://www.mg.co.za/zanews/multimedia/2009-11-26-zanews

  • Tatera

    If you do not want to be called a gangster do not act like one.

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Tatera says:
    December 1, 2009 at 10:13 am

    “If you do not want to be called a gangster do not act like one”.

    It will be wonderful if that could be said to the “legal professionals” who created on big ponzi scheme out of the RAF!

    http://www.citypress.co.za/Content/SouthAfrica/News/2168/48e941fdccd34f7199c071f3338600b8/29-11-2009-02-00/Lawyers_pocket_R7bn_from_RAF

  • Vusi

    So why not just offer an apology? Must you try to qualify it? This is the problem with most white people they will apologise but try and say, I am sorry but I was right (pardon the pun).

    Why do you so easily associate of gangster with black man Prof? I wonder if you would even have considered using the word “gangster” if you were talking of Helen Zille?

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Sine, sorry for getting your name wrong in my last post to you – the force of habit being what it is and so on :)

    You seem to make out that there is a difference between (a) calling the President a gangster and (b) describing his conduct as being comparable to the actions of gangsters. This could be a valid distinction. However, I am not sure whether you are criticising me on this score and if you are, are you criticising the lack of clarity. And if you are, are you saying that only (a) is objectionable or that both (a) and (b) are objectionable? For myself, I do wonder whether one can advance that where one makes a habit of behaving like a gangster, then that is precisely what one is: a gangster.

    You also make out that when exercising one’s rights, one should be mindful of the existence of the rights of others. Presumably you mean that in exercising my right to freedom of expression, I should have a care that others enjoy the right to dignity.

    Actually, I would be indebted to the Professor if he would give us a brief description of the relationship between the rights to dignity and expression. But I will say that I do not think it can be the case that every potentially insulting communication can unjustifiably limit the right to dignity.

    You also seem to advance that one should take steps to ensure that the manner in which one communicates criticism of the Presidency should not go to eroding the office’s standing. With all respect, I am not sure about this submission – on the assumption that I have construed it correctly. There might be instances in which one is justified in voicing disrespect for not just the incumbent but also the office. And if so, I have no notion as to the circumstances under which such disrespect would be justifiable. There may also be ways in which to level disrespect to an incumbent and the office that do not stifle debate. It may also be possible to at once (a) disrespect an individual but (b) highly regard the office.

    And even if there has been a deal of name calling here, I am not sure that is has clouded the issues. For instance, one issue is whether the President has acted in a manner that is lawful, or whether his behaviour has been so patently unlawful and self-serving that his conduct is comparable to what one might expect from a gangster. Thus the unflattering term is part and parcel of the statement of the issue.

  • Tatera

    Maggs Naidu says:
    December 1, 2009 at 10:16 am
    Tatera says:
    December 1, 2009 at 10:13 am
    “If you do not want to be called a gangster do not act like one”.
    “It will be wonderful if that could be said to the “legal professionals” who created on big ponzi scheme out of the RAF!”

    It INDEED applies to whomever it may concern. Just like, you earn respect you do not bribe it.

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    @ Peter L,

    Well said man: Zuma really thinks he can have it all his own way. I mean the smile on that man’s face when he realised that as President in an ANC run governemnt, he can have his cake and eat it too, must have been dazzling to behold. That is, the ANCYL (that is a disreputable set that is exceedingly partisan to Zuma) can get away with brazen displays of ill-temper. But one communication, the unseemliness of which some may very well question, is met with a statement from the Presidency calling for civility. This is all very rich indeed.

    @ Tatera,

    I will agree with you insofar as sometimes the simpler responses do deserve some attention. That is, if people take such exception to being called gangsters, they should take greater care that they do not act in ways the smack of gangsterism.

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Tatera says:
    December 1, 2009 at 10:38 am

    The chances of a campaign to discredit the “legal professionals” is close to zero.

    It’s much more fashionable to “Stop Zuma”!

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Leigh says:
    December 1, 2009 at 10:39 am

    “That is, if people take such exception to being called gangsters, they should take greater care that they do not act in ways the smack of gangsterism”.

    Fortunately those who matter most don’t see it that way.

    The fringe right can enjoy Zuma/ANC bashing all they will, it’s not going to make much difference in 2014!

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Maggs, whether I am partisan to the DA is not really material here. But if you are at all interested in a critcial exchange (and not one which reflects such partisanship that critical discussion is rendered impossible), perhaps you will look at this statement of some of the current issues:

    1. Given my fairly hasty (and maybe even contentious) description of a gangster, has Zuma, in acting in an arrogant, unlawful and self-serving manner, acted like one?

    2. Are we ever justifed in calling a President a gangster and if so, under what sorts of circumstances are we justified in doing so?

  • khosi

    For the longest time, Pierre has been using this blog to rubbish our leaders and call them all sorts of names. From scoundrels, to liar, to president pinnochio, to drunkards, the list is endless. Not once has he ever apologised. The only reason he is apologising, this time, is because the media covered his latest disrespect and the presidency picked up on it. Now he is crapping his pants and apologising. Well we do not believe you.

    You can however, write a ringing endorsment of the AIDS speech the president delivered today and I am sure that Mr Mona will feel a bit better. Just say how much better the presidents response is compared to “that other guy”.

  • Tatera

    Maggs Naidu says:
    December 1, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Tatera says:
    December 1, 2009 at 10:38 am
    The chances of a campaign to discredit the “legal professionals” is close to zero.
    It’s much more fashionable to “Stop Zuma”!

    Nothing to do with fashion. It depends who or what is the greatest threat to the survival of our country. Also the higher your shower-head the more wind you catch.

    Maggs Naidu says:
    December 1, 2009 at 10:43 am
    The fringe right can enjoy Zuma/ANC bashing all they will, it’s not going to make much difference in 2014!

    Screw 2014, I am concerned about our long-term!

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Leigh says:
    December 1, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Our President, who has the respect of the majority of the majority of South Africans, has made an appointment that many, including me, do not look kindly on.

    That hardly justifies the derogatory name calling in the guise of “intellectual rigour”.

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Tatera says:
    December 1, 2009 at 10:55 am

    “It depends who or what is the greatest threat to the survival of our country”.

    The gangsters parading as “legal professionals”.

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Maggs, the truly disquieting (although entirely predictable) attribute of your posts in this exchange thus far is that you have avoided the issues – some of which are (a) whether Zuma has acted like a gangster and (b) whether people are ever justified in calling a President a gangster.

    And you are probably right when you imply that the ANC supporters will not take any of Zuma’s (or the ANC’s) obvious shortcomings into account in 2014. What saddens me is that you commend this.

  • Gimme a break

    You F@#$%&*s obviously don’t work…You all must be Friggin academics!

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    @ Maggs,

    ‘Our President, who has the respect of the majority of the majority of South Africans, has made an appointment that many, including me, do not look kindly on.’

    ‘That hardly justifies the derogatory name calling in the guise of “intellectual rigour”.’

    With respect Maggs, you have not given a treatment of why people look upon the appointment with such disfavour. And that is a glaring omission.

    Let me sum up some of it: Zuma is in a bit of a pickle insofar as if the DA’s review application is successful, he will have to come up with another way to have the charges against him dropped. He appointed to the position of NDPP someone who lied under cross, encroached upon the NPA’s independence, failed to make disclosures at the Ginwala inquiry and was generally contemptuous toward the highest court in our country. In short, it seems clear to many people (and for good reason) that the President brazenly took an unlawful decision in order to promote his own interests.

  • Sine

    Leigh says:
    December 1, 2009 at 10:30 am
    Its ok Leigh. I understand that people will continue to get it wrong until it finally sinks but I am glad you’re intent on breaking that “habit”.

    Moving to the current issues (I have numbered my paras to make it easier for you to respond thereto;

    1. Yes there is a distinction between (a) and (b). I am criticising you for calling the RSA Head of State a ‘gangster’. It is possible to draw some kind of a similarity between the behaviour or a gangster and that of the Head of State but actually labelling him as a gangster seems to me to be taking such criticism, regardless of how valid, a bit too far. It seems to me to derogate from the Concourt declared duty to give respect to the Office of the President. This, however, does not translate to stating that our President is beyond reproach. However, we must observe respect for the office that he holds in levelling our reproach against that office’s incumbent. By labelling him a gangster, you have crossed this rather thin line; thin but still extant.

    2. You got it right. Was talking about the right to dignity. I am not unmindful of the public office that the President is holding and what the ruling was in National Media Ltd v Bogoshi.

    3. The relationship may be sought from the Bogoshi supra but an opinion from Prof. will be welcome as well. In this para, I do not regard your labelling of the President a gangster as potentially insulting. Actually is the operative word.

    4. To make the issue of respecting the Office of the President even when criticising it a bit clearer, I refer to the manner in which we must level criticism against the judiciary. We are allowed to criticise the judiciary but the manner of doing same should not injure the judiciary in the eyes of the man on the street as he would lose confidence in the courts and the justice system. We may criticise the President and the Office of the President but we need to observe respect for him and his office in doing so. Further, I believe there is a slight difference between criticising or showing disapproval and showing lack of respect for the President and the Office of the President. You did the latter by labelling him a gangster. Your failure to have a notion as to instances in which such a display of disrespect for the Office of the President and its incumbent is to me indicative of the nonexistence of same. In this para, may you please give me an example of (a) and (b); it seems interesting especially your use of the word ‘disrespecting’ instead of ‘criticising’.

    5. Name calling may not have clouded the issues here but it nonetheless may in future. Apart from that, I did not say it has but I merely stated what it does without saying it actually has done so in this case.

    I look forward to your response…

  • Ewald

    Leigh said: “So I think the Professor achieved the rare FEET of being correct as regards competing scores…” I do agree with you wholehartedly my dear! :)

  • http://akanyangm.blogspot.com Akanyang Meremnetsi

    At Peter: for saying Pierr “should have responded that you have not been found guilty in this regard in a court of law, and hence have nothing to apologise for…”

    MAYBE, just Maybe, Pierr should have said his statement was taken our of context and badly misquoted for that is not how he interpreted the ‘GANGSTER’ or that according to him, that is not the meeting put to the ‘gangster’ by the presidency and the media!!!!!!

    He was just misquoted? I like this!

    Pierre y’a should start using political terms – or rather, you should stick to the legal terms as these ‘gangster’ terms – or is it just political – certainly do not suite y’a?

  • http://akanyangm.blogspot.com Akanyang Meremnetsi

    At Pierre, is not taken out of context as some would say you have been and if memory serves me well and I am not refering to Malema, Mbeki of the Presidency or even Zuma himself here – I think this was the first time you were quoted in this fashion especially in print media.

    I am I right mense? Or I am just like the whole lot I mentioned above?

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Leigh says:
    December 1, 2009 at 11:15 am

    “With respect Maggs, you have not given a treatment of why people look upon the appointment with such disfavour” – that’s simply nonsense.

    I have made it clear why “look upon the appointment with such disfavour”.

    Perhaps you missed my comment where I said that I do not want a King Zuma – I do not think Simelane has the makeup to deal with high level criminality of any sort.

    “Zuma is in a bit of a pickle” – eish!

    He’s hardly in a pickle – if all that you hope happens, does happen then Zuma will have to face whatever he has to face.

    “the President brazenly took an unlawful decision in order to promote his own interests”

    It’s not unlawful because you say so.

    Be that as it may, putting up with “intellectuals” demeaning our President is not an option.

    As long as there are people who pretend to have the interest of broader South Africa at heart, but really are on a mission to undermine our President and the ANC at every opportune time, I and other like me will respond as appropriate.

    If you are really interested in furthering debate in a way that will improve our country, stick to issues – just maybe we can get consensus on what needs to be done to improve our country.

    But as I said earlier, I really doubt that is your intention.

    The “Stop Zuma” campaign is doomed to failure, try as you will!

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Sine, I am going to confine my response to your paragraphs 1 and 4 given that they seem to disclose the issues between us that are in dispute. However, if you would like responses to the other three paragraphs, I can try to do them later.

    Ad paragraph 1 (sorry man, bit of a habit this) :)

    I agree that the President is not beyond reproach. But I do not think that name calling necessarily takes things too far. I will say here (with which you agree), and then amplify below, that in my view, one can draw a fairly clear distinction between an individual incumbent on the one hand, and the office itself on the other. This point cannot really be contentious in that the individual lives and breaths whereas the office does not.

    I advance that it is possible that the particular nature of an individual incumbent’s behaviour could merit especially harsh criticism which could justifiably extend to the use of strong and unflattering words. For instance, if the individual incumbent shows an especially audacious lack of regard for statutory and constitutional dictates, then in such an instance an especially cutting reproach may be desirable inasmuch as it would communicate a community’s sense of outrage. In such an instance, one could be justified in really sticking it to the individual incumbent and it may even be the case that the incumbent would make a cowardly display in hiding behind his office in the full knowledge of the nature of his conduct that occasioned the unflattering communication in the first place.

    Ad paragraph 4

    I appreciate your reference to the way in which we should criticise the courts. But let me say this: it seems that one common factor between the courts on the one hand, and the Presidency on the other, is that the incumbents of judicial office and the Presidency alike are entrusted with powers that they are to use for the benefit of the community. And while I think we should respect the office that each individual incumbent occupies, we can resort to stronger and more cutting terms to communicate out discontent when any of the incumbents do things which are especially despicable. For instance, if a judge presided over a case in which her nephew was a litigant and then paid someone off to keep that fact quiet, I would understand and accept people calling the individual incumbent a few very strong things given that the breach in question is especially grave.

    And if a President (like the judge in my earlier example) does something patently wrongful in order to protect himself, well then given the especially objectionable display, I would understand people resorting to strong language and I do not think that the use of such cutting language would necessarily be out of order.

    When I said that I had no notion of circumstances under which showing disrespect to a President would be justifiable, I did not mean to convey that I would not try to do so later. And now that I have a moment, it is not hard to think of such a circumstance. Let us say that before an individual incumbent became President, he had unprotected sex with an HIV positive woman – and he was aware that she was HIV positive. He then sought to protect himself by having a shower after the fact. And let us not forget that he also exposed his wives to the risk of contracting HIV. Even though this person did all of this before becoming president, he still did it and thus if ever it came up in conversation, given that he has not, as far as I am aware, publicly berated himself for doing something so incredibly irresponsible, people would be justified in saying some very strong things about the individual incumbent in order to communicate a community’s sense of outrage.

    Finally, I will offer an example which is meant to illustrate how one can at once (i) properly show some disrespect to an individual incumbent in order to better convey a completely understandable measure of outrage from a community and (ii), still highly regard the office or position. A priest sexually abuses a young boy. I think that some respectable public figure could at once (a) do some justice to the community by calling such a priest a horrid, and selfish wretch and (b), still show respect for the position of priest possibly by saying that the individual incumbent was never deserving of such a position in the first place.

    Sorry about the relative length of this post. I did not realise I would prattle on for so long.

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Ewald, apologies man. (How I miss the spell-check when posting) :)

  • Samantha

    To stifle debate about the suitability of a person for office based on the respect deserving of that office is, in my mind, tantamount to limiting freedom of speech. This is especially so when the person in question is nothing more than a public servant, as is the case of our President. At some point, we need to realise that our government officials are not ordained by God, but are elected by the people for whom they are supposed to work.

    Furthermore, the office of the President can only go so far in engendering respect and respectability. It is then incumbent on the office-bearer to sustain that level through respectable actions. Mugabe is a case in point. One could say that his office as President holds a certain amount of respect. So, should we all respect him merely by dint of the fact that he holds the office, or should his actions also be taken into account?

    It is entirely hypocritical to berate Prof. for using the word “gangster” in relation to Zuma, while the ANC clearly endorses name-calling of a far worse kind by it’s other so-called leaders. So, when the President fails to call his own people to account, how are we to respect his leadership? An office can only go so far. Beyond that, the incumbent is responsible for upholding the respect that that office retains.

  • MIKE

    Professor, I am so dissappointed that you have been pressurised into aplogising to President Zuma. Your “gangster” comment is so appropriate and is a really wonderful description of the situation.

  • Leigh

    Samantha, very cool post :)

    Some people may well contend that Zuma wants to enjoy all of the perks but that he is not prepared to live up to his office. And his supporters are even worse: they want respect for a president who will not earn it. Moreover, it is very distressing to see a president promote the undermining of the Constitution’s content and the Constitutional Court’s rulings.

    I would add also that much like the term ‘Hlophephobia’, this ‘ANC bashing’ bollocks completely overlooks the point that many of the more scathing comments about the ANC are very tenable.

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Leigh says:
    December 1, 2009 at 16:07 pm

    “And his supporters are even worse: they want respect for a president who will not earn it”.

    65.9% not enough to have earned it?

    “I would add also that much like the term ‘Hlophephobia’, this ‘ANC bashing’ bollocks completely overlooks the point that many of the more scathing comments about the ANC are very tenable”.

    :)

    Much better now that the real Leigh is standing up!

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    @ Pierre.

    I suppose you would not have had a knuckle rapping if you did a Sir David Frost and asked “Is our President a gangster?”.

    Then Mr Mona may have responded with “What is a gangster?”

  • Darcy du Toit

    I agree with Pierre’s decision to withdraw his previous choice of words and, instead, restate his criticism in language more conducive to “the healthy and respectful debate so needed in our democracy”. This shows an understanding that overstating one’s case can be counter-productive: in politics, as in law, the object is not to preach to the converted but to win over those who adhere to other views or are loyal to other parties. Denigrating those views or leaders of those parties alienates even their critical supporters, encourages them to close ranks against what they experience as unjustified or one-sided accusations, perpetuates existing divisions and undermines the effort of building wider support for one’s own view (however justified). For that reason I also think Samantha’s argument that the ANC has engaged in worse name-calling misses the point. Two wrongs don’t make a right. The way to build a rights-based democracy is not, in effect, to justify one’s opponent’s errors and excesses by emulating them but to act consistently with the values one professes; i.e., to “lead by example”. This seems to me one of the most important lessons to be learned from the foundational values of the Constitution: to respect the dignity, equality and freedom of everyone (including our opponents). That doesn’t reduce the intensity of the debates that need to be waged; it only affects the degree of constructiveness with which they are conducted.

  • Leigh

    Maggs, I am not saying anything materially or substantively different from what I have said for a good long while now. So your statement as to the so-called ‘real’ Leigh standing up is perplexing.

    And with all respect, it could be that you would do yourself a service by leaving alone for the time being the question of whether my views are disagreeable or at least misguided. That is, it could be that your more pressing concern is the issue of your over-ardent and scarcely critical support of people who have not removed their boots from the necks of our core institutions since Zuma became president.

  • Leigh

    I have not shut up today. Apologies all around and so on. But I would like to make one more point given that apparently there are those who number among us who may wish to think a few things through given some of the deeply unfortunate implications of their views. In a constitutional democracy, the determination of the right position is not a numbers game. Thus the activity of dressing-down the ANC bashing -brigade on the ground that the president of this constitutional democracy is necessarily respectable because the majority say so is, in addition to being feebly-conceived, anti-constitutional.

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Leigh says:
    December 1, 2009 at 16:55 pm

    “That is, it could be that your more pressing concern is the issue of your over-ardent and scarcely critical support of people who have not removed their boots from the necks of our core institutions since Zuma became president”.

    That’s in your words “bollocks”.

    Either you have not followed my comments or you are simply saying something for the sake of it.

  • Leigh

    Maggs, one point is that for all your thoughts on Simelane, you say remarkably little to undermine the view that Zuma’s core motivation for disregarding and brooking the disregarding of statutory and constitutional dictates is that he aims to promote his own interests. In short, I wonder whether you have convinced anyone that you have honestly considered the possibility that Zuma cares not at all about the import of our core institutions and will happily undermine them in order to help himself.

    A little basic public law may be in order here. We need the prosecutorial service to be independent in part because it is precisely an independent service that gives practical effect to the constitutional dictate that all are equal before the law. And as a related justification for an independent NPA, we need a fearless and unbiased service so that criminally-inclined public figures that enjoy a little clout can be duly sanctioned. But a craven and partisan NDPP would put paid to a critically important endeavour: creating a just and constitutionally-envisioned society.

    I honestly wonder whether you see the connection between Zuma’s selfish behaviour on the one hand, and the frustration of the abovementioned import constitutional goal on the other.

    You spoke earlier of wanting to further useful debate by sticking to issues. It is such a pity that your fairly glaring omissions betray that your willingness to debate relevant issues comes with a qualification: I will consider opinions so long as they do not cast Zuma in a light which he himself invited due to his unscrupulous actions.

  • Samantha

    Thanks, Leigh. Although, the core principle of my post does not differ substantially from the point you have been making on this issue.

    What concerns me most about the appointment of Simelane, is that it is such a brazen statement about how the ANC and Zuma view their position in this country. There can be little doubt that they knew they would experience a severe backlash following this appointment and yet they still made it. To me it shows utter contempt for the people of this country, the Constitution and the institutions that guard it.

    I live in a small town with an ANC-run ward. The ANC leaders and councillors continue to flout the law and their responsibilities, despite knowing that they will be caught out. When confronted they offer an apology, promise to mend their ways and then proceed to do it all over again.

    Perhaps when the ANC, at all levels, begin to respect the people of this country, they can begin to demand respect in return. Until such time, we are perfectly entitled to treat them with the contempt with which they treat us.

  • Leigh

    Samantha, I honestly do not think I could agree more: Zuma, and the rest of his party in most of this country, just do not fear adverse consequences.

    And further, for all the pretty civility reflected in the Presidency’s media statement, it is, in my view, the sort of statement that could well have come from a cowardly bully. Gangsters, to my mind, brazenly break the rules in order to promote their own questionable objects. My question is: how is Zuma’s conduct in appointing Simelane any different from that? Thus it seems to me that the Presidency, after the fashion of much of the broader ANC camp, is replete with cowardly bullies who suppress remarks that many could quite reasonably regard as being very fair indeed.

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Leigh says:
    December 1, 2009 at 17:43 pm

    Again – let’s not pretend that this is about our constitutional democracy.

    You’re anti-ANC and anti Zuma.

    You would find every opportunity to denigrate Zuma and/or the ANC – I would have to weigh whatever you say against that.

    I am pro ANC and pro Zuma – I am comfortable to say so in open forum rather than pretending that I am on some kind of altruistic mission.

    I would defend either where I think it is appropriate to do so.

    The essence of my comments re Simelane has been and is that I think this was an awful choice.

    However I did not support nor vote for Zuma on the basis that I would be beaming from era to ear about the way he decides to exercise his constitutional prerogatives.

    So far apart from the “Stop Zuma” rhetoric, I see very little to support the contention that choosing Simelane is illegal (that would only be illegal and/or unconstitutional if the relevant courts say so, not anti ANC commentators).

    If he messes up, I won’t support him in 2014.

  • Pierre De Vos

    Darcy du Toit captures my reasons for apologising to President Zuma for the tone of my statement perfectly. It is, of course true that some ANC leaders have said scandalous, vicious and downright dangerous things over the past few years (far, far worse than my statement) and that President Zuma has unfortunately not castigated them. This is obviously hypocritical of him. Nevertheless, as a constitutional lawyer I hold myself to a higher standard, aiming for vigorous debate, sharp criticism and at times even mockery of scandalous behaviour without descending into Malemaesque name-calling and bullying that would unnecessary alienate reasonable people from across the political spectrum. That is why I have stopped referring to Helen Zille as “Ms Botox” and why I have apologised to the President for using the “gangster” phrase (but not for the content of the post – which I will continue to defend vigorously on the basis of sound legal analysis and with reference to the proven facts).

  • Leigh

    Maggs, everything I have said about Zuma has a basis in fact. Some of it is admittedly conjecture. But that speculation seems reasonable to me because it has a readily demonstrable basis in fact.

    If you want to believe that I am just an ANC-bashing Zuma-hater, then do so. Frankly, and with respect, trying to convince you otherwise would be beyond any debater that was not blessed with the skill of a Sydney Kentridge – and that is not because you have a point but rather because you will not earnestly and critically explore certain possibilities.

    But Sydney is an inspirational lawyer so maybe, on reflection, I should at least try to persuade you that (a) I am not an ANC-basher and (b), as much as I like you as a person, it is your scarcely critical partisanship to Zuma that takes the jam right out of my doughnut.

    You once told me that voting DA could never be an option for you. I, on the other hand, will not and have not ruled out voting for the ANC one day. And no, hell would not need to freeze over. The ANC, for a start, would just need to reconcile itself to the necssary implications of the rule of law and abandon its crony culture so as to promote good service delivery.

  • Leigh

    Professor, while I am still not convinced that disrespecting an individual incumbent is necessarily objectionable, I will say with respect that it is sensible of you to hold yourself to high standards of propriety.

  • Pierre De Vos

    Maggs Naidu, I happen to believe the choice is more than awful. It is illegal because Simelane is not “fit and proper” as required by the law. I have offered transcripts of the Ginwala Inquiry to demonstrate why I say this. May I also refer you to the PSC report on the Department of Justice website for a litany of other problems with Simelane’s actions and words, based not on conjecture or things that need to be proven but based on what is in the public domain and is factually not contested. I note neither you, nor anyone else has produced a plausible answer to my contention. The silence in this regard speaks for itself. The reason why this unlawful appointment is such a big deal is because the person appointed does not believe in the independence of the NPA as protected by the Constitution and the NPA Act as interpreted by our courts. Any supporter of our President who stood by him during his legal travails and argued that he was being “persecuted” by an NPA which was in the pocket of Mbeki must shout blue murder about the appointment. If they do not, we will all know that they never really believed the complaints about NPA independence and only professed concern for completely expedient reasons to try and detract attention from the fact that our President has a prima facie case of corruption and fraud to answer.

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Leigh says:
    December 1, 2009 at 18:57 pm

    I dunno of any political party that would not deploy its own cadres to key positions, here or elsewhere in the world

    Indeed there has been the deployment of some of the worst kind of human beings, the results are showing in numerous places.

    I have commented elsewhere and will repeat that it is worrisome that the pool of talent that the ANC seems to be relying on appears to be smaller than the large number of extremely talented women and men available to it.

    Of course the ANC has allowed over the last 15 years really awful if not despicable governance – for that I expect, as I have said before, that it will pay the price in 2011.

    I have said before and will say again that some of the people around our President are unsavoury – show me a President or statesperson anywhere in the world who does not have such characters in tow.

    However this administration is generally doing what it was expected to do – the depth and breath of that is, let’s say, humungous.

    It is hardly fair to expect President Zuma to wave a magic wand and all to revert to normalcy.

    There’s nothing sacrosanct about our President, but it is wrong to challenge his person in derogatory ways, rather than challenge the decisions and choices.

  • Samantha

    I find it interesting that whenever one opposes actions by the ANC or Zuma, one is branded – a Zuma-basher, an ANC-hater, a racist, a colonialist, an imperialist and the list goes on. It appears from this behaviour, that despite the contentions of ANC-supporters (and even Vusi Mona) to the contrary, the ANC and its followers do not encourage debate and discourse.

    I believe that the major problem is that with many ANC-supporters, the ANC is an intrinsic element of their identity. In fact, they are not ANC supporters, so much as ANC. It is as much of who they are as Christianity or being a Xhosa. Until people can begin to realise that the ANC is no longer a liberation movement but a political party, they will be unable to make an informed choice about where to place their precious votes. For many, the ANC is not what they choose, but what they are. And until they can separate the ANC from what defines them, there can be no critical analysis or debate on issues around the ANC and its leaders.

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Pierre De Vos says:
    December 1, 2009 at 19:03 pm

    I am not sure why you think that I disagree with you (except on the “gangster” bit that is).

    If the decision to appoint Simelane is successfully challenged I would be happy about that – as I said elsewhere there seems to be not one single person who unconditionally supported his appointment.

    It was reported somewhere that Simelane was not our President’s first choice. If I caught eNews correctly, it was said that Min Radebe, when asked about Simelane’s suitability, deferred that to the President.

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    @ Maggs

    “Of course the ANC has allowed over the last 15 years really awful if not despicable governance – for that I expect, as I have said before, that it will pay the price in 2011.”

    Maggs is right. As he and Pierre have so often pointed out, the voters are not fools. That is why they will surely punish the ANC in 2011. (Much as they punished Mbeki for denialism and Zimbabwe!)

    @ Maggs

    “Show me a President or statesperson anywhere in the world who does not have such characters in tow.”

    Once again, Maggs is right. Obama’s administration, for example, is just packed with people who have been found by goverment commissions to have lied under oath. And everyone know that the youth leader of the Democratic party is a certified clown.

  • Spuy

    You are NOT sory Prof, now, are you? That is what you genuinely think of our President, isnt it? (you WERE/ARE at least be honest about it). Personally, I think you apology is fake and very insulting – the paragraph immediately after the sentence with the “apology” says as much. I ve always respected sinners who dont go to church than those who do. In short – just apologise for having attempted to fool us with this “apology”, I will at least respect you for having (disrespectfully and insultingly) brutally frank!

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    Leigh, why not just admit that you are nothing but a knee-jerk DA partisan?

    (I would not be the least bit suprised if, like your beloved leader, you have the frozen rictus of a popular chemically-induced muscle paralysis.)

    Your passionate attachment to the opposition party is all the more galling because the DA policies are so very, very far removed from the ANC’s staunch alignment with Socialism!

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Hey Dworky.

    “A week ago, the U.S. Justice Department moved to void its case against Stevens, including his conviction. The federal prosecutors had withheld crucial evidence from Stevens’ defense team. Stevens might not have lost his election race had he not been convicted of corruption.
    “The facts of this case mirror those of the Zuma ordeal to a startling degree. Except for the response of the chattering classes. A New York Times editorial last week brings this point home: ‘For eight years the Bush Justice Department cynically put politics and ideology above the law. So it is gratifying to see how Attorney General Eric Holder is handling the case against Ted Stevens, the former Alaska senator who was convicted last year on seven felony counts of ethics violations. Mr. Holder announced this week that he would ask a judge to drop all charges against Mr. Stevens, a Republican, because of prosecutorial misconduct.'”

    http://wotnews.com/news/Eric_Holder__and__Alaska/

  • Leigh

    @ Samantha,

    I think you offer an important insight when you say that for many people, the ANC is more than merely a political party. This is perhaps at once one of the ANC’s principal weapons and one of our country’s greatest challenges.

    @ Mikhail

    What hateful remarks you made. I have not stopped crying since I read them :)

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    And more.

    ” More constitutional questions about Eric Holder
    Eric Holder, President-Elect Barack Obama’s choice for U.S. attorney general, is an impressive candidate who already has significant Justice Department experience. But he comes with baggage that brings into question his respect for individual rights. In addition to his troubling stance on drug policy and the right to bear arms, his actions as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration suggest that he may not fully respect the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the ability of defendants to receive a fair trial.”

    http://www.tuccille.com/blog/2009/01/more-constitutional-questions-about.html

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    And more.

    “In his final days with the Clinton administration, Holder was involved with Clinton’s last-minute pardon of fugitive and Democratic contributor Marc Rich. Between November 2000 and January 2001, Jack Quinn, Rich’s lawyer and former White House Counsel from 1995-96, had been contacting Holder, testing the waters for the political viability of a presidential pardon. After presenting his case to Holder in a November phone call and a last minute January 17 letter, Quinn arranged a phone call between the White House and Holder, asking the Deputy Attorney General to share his opinion on the Rich pardon. Holder gave Clinton a “neutral, leaning towards favorable” opinion of the pardon”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Holder

    “Holder was not just an integral part of the pardon process, he provided the White House with cover by offering his go-ahead recommendation. No alarm seemed to sound for him. Not only had strings been pulled, but it was rare to pardon a fugitive — someone who had avoided possible conviction by avoiding the inconvenience of a trial. The U.S. attorney’s office in New York — which, Holder had told the White House, would oppose any pardon — was kept ignorant of what was going on. Afterward, it was furious”.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/01/AR2008120102403.html

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Hey Dworky,

    Who is Antoin Tony Rezko?

    Who is Franklin Raines?

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    Thank you for the good additional examples, Maggs!

    I especially admire your citing the very apt instance of Obama’s pick as AG, Mr Holder, who fills a position roughly equivalent to that of Mr Simelane.

    Did you know that, quite apart from the Republican insults against Mr Holder (which you so convincingly cite), Mr Holder was also found by a government commission of enquiry to have lied under oath?

    Yes, its true.*

    * Funny, just had the ref here in front of me a moment ago. Will look in my office on Wed. Sorry, Maggs, will get it to you ASAP.).

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Hey Dworky,

    Thanks for the insightful information that Richard Cohen is Republican, Government Commission.

    I thought he was a Washington Post hack!

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    BTW – I have no issue with Holder – I think he is excellent.

    But the bulldust that spills that only the ANC leaders have adverse associates and/or associations and that what is done here is unique (according to you) is in dispute.

    You’re just a silly racist!

  • John Drake

    I am totally disgusted with Pierre for referring to the president as a gangster. I always enjoyed reading your articles, but this time you went too far. We are all too well aware of your out of control and excessive drinking habbits at the Bronx and other gay establishments in Green Point (the Cape Quarter). How would you like to be referred to “the drunken gay”? Please conduct yourself in a decent manner or NIA will dish the dirt on you!!!!!!

  • Leigh

    Spuy, you have failed to draw an intelligible distinction between (a) the message itself and (b), how that message is communicated. In the present instance, the Professor stands by the message itself but has, on reflection, come to reconsider the wisdom in the way in which he communicated that message. And it is perfectly possible to maintain the message but relate it in a different manner.

    To use another example, if someone made a habit of comprehending only what he wanted to understand when reading due to his obvious inability to give certain critics a fair shake, there are a number of ways in which I could communicate my dissatisfaction. I could opine that he is a race-blinded fool. Or, alternatively, I could say he is exceedingly unfair due to his partisanship to certain camps and groups. Same message, different frames.

  • JAN

    Why is this Prof. De vos so negative. i do not see the role of an expert in this man rather a political opponent to the current ANC leadership.

  • Pierre De Vos

    From a Business Day editorial:

    UNIVERSITY of Cape Town law professor Pierre de Vos was wrong to call President Jacob Zuma “a gangster hell-bent on protecting himself and his cronies” in response to the appointment of Menzi Simelane as director of public prosecutions. Indeed, De Vos has conceded as much on his blog, and has apologised unreservedly to Zuma for his use of such “intemperate language”.

    That would ordinarily be the end of the matter but for the fact that the incident did not take place in a vacuum. Insults, threats and general abuse far worse than anything uttered by De Vos have become commonplace in the South African political discourse in recent months, and the worst culprits are prominent leaders of the ruling political party Zuma heads.

    It is hypocrisy of the highest order, therefore, for the Presidency now to be issuing sanctimonious missives deploring De Vos’s relatively mild faux pas as “shocking and despicable” and “beyond the standards of decency and intelligent debate” when it has been silent in the face of infinitely worse verbal assaults from the likes of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and various other ruling party office holders.

    If the president really believes that people should “disagree without being disagreeable, and without making inciting statements or insulting utterances”, why has he not insisted that the ANC take stern disciplinary steps against party members who regularly go beyond mere insult and incitement to physically threaten their opponents?

    It is sadly also the case that the Presidency has made no attempt to address the substance of De Vos’s criticism of Zuma’s extraordinary decision to appoint Simelane despite ample evidence that he is unfit to hold the office. Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has performed his now familiar soft- shoe shuffle in disingenuous defence of the move, but of the Presidency’s professed commitment to “intelligent debate” there has been no sign.

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    John Drake says:
    December 1, 2009 at 23:37 pm

    “Please conduct yourself in a decent manner or NIA will dish the dirt on you!!!!!!”

    Who needs NIA when we have John drake.

    Post video clips on youtube – I presume you were at “the Bronx and other gay establishments in Green Point ” to gather dirt on Pierre.

    From one sober straight to another, the “drunken gay” surely does not know his place – he has the darn audacity to challenge a decision of our President.

    BTW, apart from the “intemperate language” is there anything in the merit of Pierre’s posting that warrants your response?

  • CD

    Spot on Business Day!

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    @ Pierre.

    Is that Business Day editorial supportive or a back hander?

    Is it like cool or uncool to be referenced against “the likes of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and various other ruling party office holders” who “regularly go beyond mere insult and incitement to physically threaten their opponents”?

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    CD, I agree that the piece in the Business Day is spot on.

  • Thabo

    Who the hell does this Prof think he is! How can you call a head of state a gangster! The truth is some of us voted for this gangster & we luv him! This freedom of speech is taken to far!

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    @ John Drake

    Are the “excessive drinking habbits” to which you refer perhaps related to those sweet little hairy-foots described by Tolkien in an unpublished sequel?

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    @ Maggs

    You forgot to mention the Republican charge that Holder had, as a law student, chopped his girlfriend’s body into tiny pieces to feed to a giant Nile crocodile that had swum up the Potomac, having been swept across the Atlantic in a freak storm.

    Clearly, Obama’s pick as AG makes Simelane look like a model of integrity by comparison!

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Hey Dworky, you silly racist.

    Let it go – I plead no contest.

    John Drake sounds much more fun.

    A birdie tells me that the Constitution and Freedom Charter Codes (developed by Da Vinci Code wannabes) has in it that gays in general and drunken gays in particular are not real citizens (maybe not even people) and have no freedom of expression – but to know that you have to have access to the code which is a carefully kept secret in the hands of a select group (kinda like the Illuminati).

  • Thomas

    Dear Prof. de Vos,

    I have a serious problem with analysts and experts who use public media to express their personal views and feelings as expert opinion or knowledge. If you believe the President’s decision is unconstitutional, the best thing to do as a constitutional law expert is to take the matter to the Constitutional Court to be tested by a competent arbiter.

    Calling the President a “gangster” reflects badly on you as a professor than it does to the President (who has always been civil to his worst critics). If university professors use this kind of language (the Julius Malema kind of language), how can we expect the youth to be civil and respectful?

    As a university professor, you have an obligation to serve as an example to your students and public at large.

    Insisting that your interpretation of law is “correct” is problematic. It is NOT correct until the Constitutional Court adjudicates on the matter. In the meantime, stop making your personal views law and take the matter to the Constitutional Court.

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    @ Thomas: “Insisting that your interpretation of law is “correct” is problematic. It is NOT correct until the Constitutional Court adjudicates on the matter. ”

    Thomas is right.

    Only the CC is empowered to say what the Constitution says.

    In the meantime, all of us — including so-called law professors — must keep our views on the meaning of the Constitution secret.

    (Or, Thomas, do you think it is OK if we write our constitutional views on small pieces of paper and hide them under our pillows until the CC pronounces?)

  • Anonymouse

    Afrikaans for ‘gangster’ = ‘boef’. Now well, Zuma has according to the Afr press said :”Ek is geen boef nie!”, and his Office has lambasted Prof de Vos for saying so instead of conducting the debate honestly. Then, Prof De Vos came out saying: “Mea culpa!”, but lets not forget the context of the debate. Both parties have referred to the need for honest and hard debate, which is however something most bloggers (Afr = “spoegers”) seem to forget by either siding for or against Prof de Vos (or Jacob Zuma). That is not very constructive.

    Let’s see what we can dish up – when Vusi Pikoli was DG of the DOJ&CD, Menzi Simelane was his junior, just waiting to sink his teeth into the stature, power (and of course, money and riches) that an appointment of DG would bring if he plays his political cards right. Well, when Pikoli became NDPP, guess what? Simelane became DG. (Having had to endure his poor, non-existent, managment style as DG as a magistrate, where he, has at many occasions not even bothered to respond to correspondence directed at him personally, just because those who wrote the letters, were lowly magistrates or judges, I know that he was a bad DG, unlike Pikoli, who worked to promote an open and accessible Justice Department. Wait, I digress….) So, for me it is just logical to assume that, if Pikoli vacates office (albeit after a ‘golden handshake’ out of court settlement of R7.5 Mil), that Simelane will have to step into his shoes. That would be the politically right thing to do.

    Now, one wonders why Simelane was so hell bent on thrashing Pikoli in front of Thabo Mbeki, and Frene Ginwalla?! It is obvious, he was aspiring for appointment as NDPP when Pikoli is eventually (albeit, in the end, constructively) fired. Obviously, as well, he was making the right noises when Mokotedi Mpshe decided not to go ahead with the reinstated prosecution against Jacob Zuma, thereby paving his way, politically, to receive the President’s favour when the opportunity presents itself.

    Unfortunately for the President, it is against this background, and with proof in the public domain that Simelane is a liar and not at all prepared to uphold and protect the Constitution, that Jacob Zuma (acting on advice of his advisers?) decided to make Simelane NDPP. I will not trust Simelane to take a decision on prosecution in a way that is fair, balanced and without fear or prejudice. How can the President do that? What must one do to deserve (or not to deserve) name-calling in such trying times? As I’ve said earlier, this has become a Circus, and perhaps that rap-tune I wrote under the previous post, hoping that Ras will actually take up serious rapping rather than thrashing the National Anthem, does have a ring of truth in it all – about Menzi, the man!.

  • Mdu

    Prof, you were wrong finish and klaar and for you to pander to your apologists smacks of fake apology, just stick to you apology, I think that makes you a bigger man.

    More to the point, why have you Prof and your supporters been quiet about Adv, Simelane’s unfitness to be an advocate for so long after the Ginwala commission concluded its work and only raise this issue now, for me your concern and DA’s smacks of ‘fight Zuma’ campaign of before elections.

    And I think the reason the Presidency picked on your use of intemperate language is because they know that you are mostly anti-ANC.

  • Anonymouse

    Mdu – “…because they know that you are mostly anti-ANC”.

    LOL! Careful now, you are implying (if not suggesting) that, in order to become DG of the DOJ&CD, or even NDPP, one must be “pro-ANC”! Preposterous! Nevertheless, while being DG, he did not appear in court, neither would he ever have been required to do so. Thus, the title ‘advocate’ would be rather innocuous. However, since he has become, first DNDPP, then NDPP, the likelyhood of his appearing in court and , actually taking freestanding ‘legal’ decisions for which the taxpayer is paying, the matter has changed totally. His (in-)competence to be practicing as an advocate of the High Court now becomes directly relevant. So I see no problem with the timing of the Bar to investigate his fitness – its got nothing to do with the ANC, or even its public squealers. Its got everything to do with people yearning (and deserving) justice, which the Bar Society (advocates) and Law Society (attorneys) have sworn to try and regulate in terms of the law and the Constitution.

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    Mdu is right.

    It seems we are faced with an outbreak of rampant SIMELANEPHOBIA!

    Where were the white liberals when Hitler was violating human rights? They may have had their differences — but I never heard white liberals calling the Fuhrer a “gangsta.” Rather, they showed him the respect due a Head of State.

  • JUAN PIETERSE

    YOU, Pierre are a COWARD!! Zuma IS a gangester and ALL evidence point to it!! STAND UP!! GROW SOME BALLS AND BE A MAN!! RETRACT YOUR APOLOGY AGAINST THIS GANGSTER!!!

  • Spuy

    Juan Pieterse post above bothers on the criminal. I am just suprised that it was not edited out.

    In the days of his witchfull grandparents he would not have had so much freedom to insult the Head of State.

    But then again if the University Professor can insult the office of the head of state, why shouldnt low-lifes like Pieterse do it? Its democracy right? Free for All.

  • http://www.thedailyspew.com Muscles

    Prof, as a man who I assume knows the law backwards, you should know better than putting thoughts to paper when angered. No one can be held accountable for his thoughts if they are never uttered, you have crossed the line and at least are man enough to apologise. I hope Zuma doesnt chuck a defamation case at you, something he has a habit of doing.

    The upside from this is you have made the news and rekindled my interest in South African law, something you lose touch with when you run away to the UK. I hope this incident brings more people to your soap box and possibly some sense to the appointment by Zuma

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    @ Juan

    I demand that you retract and apologise for your demand that Pierre retract and apologise for his retraction and apology!

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Speak your mind
    02 December 2009
    Sowetan says:

    BY THE start of the day yesterday, we were outraged that a University of Cape Town law professor had called President Jacob Zuma a gangster. By the time the sun set, we had some admiration for Pierre de Vos.

    Owning up to public errors of judgment is rare in our country. Many of the social ills have been left to resolve themselves because nobody was willing to accept that they had gotten it wrong and perhaps extended an apology to those who were disadvantaged by the wrong. That is why nobody has said sorry for race or gender injustices.

    At a time when political discourse has sunk to vulgar levels, De Vos’ had threatened to take whatever hope that it was possible to vehemently disagree without getting personal or emotional.

    We can only hope that other loose tongued hot heads have seen that it is possible to revert to the dictatorship of reason before it is too late.

    http://www.sowetan.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=1093548

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Hey Dworky even you got a mention : “other loose tongued hot heads”.

    Twice : “dictatorship of reason”

  • http://akanyangm.blogspot.com Akanyang Meremnetsi

    @ Thomas “[has] a serious problem with analysts and experts who use public media to express their personal views and feelings as expert opinion or knowledge”

    Well Thomas, in case you have not noticed, it was not like Pierre – not that I condone his ‘gangster’ of Zuma or anything like that, but hey, the Prof. (or should I call him that?) – went to Media houses in SA or worldwide and submitted the article for print publication to receive support and or ‘express’ his views ‘as an expert’ or anything along those lines like some expert of our own in this country tends to do.

    He actually wrote in his blog – and you are entitled to have/create your own and share your views too on whatever expertise knowledge you may want to share or from whichever field you may come from, that’s okay with me and I believe with everyone else – and did not “use public media to express their personal views and feelings as expert opinion or knowledge” as you seem to suggest, or at least that how I think you have interpreted the ‘gangster’ statement.

    And again Thomas, I am sure Prof or yourself and some people would agree with me, it is not all people – (by this I do not refer to Zille, SAHRC, and opposition parties) – who in your view “believe the President’s decision [or whoever's it is/was] is [understood to be] unconstitutional . . . [should every now and then run] …. to the Constitutional Court [for their views] to be tested by a competent arbiter”

    There are many ways of starting a debate. Certainly, for example, Malema did not take his views about nationalisation of mines to the Court to be tested!

    Although one must admit that the manner in which the issue was raised may have been a bit, if not way too, off and instead should have been discussed in a civilised manner like SACP’s Jeremy Cronin did and not the military way in which Malema did!

    And I may seem to agree with you that if a “professor than it does to the President… [and] use this kind of language (the Julius Malema kind of language), how can we expect the youth to be civil and respectful?”

    On the above statement, the problem, I think, was and still is the interpretation of the ‘gangster’.

    Everyone including the media, the Presidency, the ANC, other political parties and their alliances – too the ‘gangster’ of Prof’s case out of context and his understanding thereof was sensationalized and it suffice to say, Prof’s ‘gangster’ may have been “misinterpreted and or misunderstood” just like ‘shot to kill’ can be misinterpreted and taken out of context and in the worst scenario, be blown out of proportion.

    And these things happen, though not entirely advised or condoned, and in this case, it did happen and as a result it should be understood or read in the fashion you read it and also not the “shocking and despicable” fashion which the presidency seem to have read it.

    And just like Prof. “as a university professor… [has] an obligation to serve as an example to [his] students and public at large – and so does Malema to the youth and ‘the public at large’.

    And from this context, what makes Malema any different from Prof?

    Could it be that the former has not reached the status (not politically, but academically) which the latter has reached?

    Depending how one looks at the above statement, they may seem the same but they are not!

    Most importantly, it is whether or not these ‘shoot to kill’, ‘gangster’ and ‘shoot the bastards’ and many others – which may have resulted is huge political, economical, social and legal response and or debates in the country and worldwide are raised in a somewhat civilised and or militant manner or fashion .

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    In June this year, De Vos himself was displeased when UCT law professor Paul Ngobeni said the UCT law faculty was dominated by a white, racist “group of gangsters”.

    http://www.sowetan.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=1093597

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  • Herman Lategan

    There are some weird people in the thread of this blog who keep on insinuating that Pierre is a racist or right-wing.

    This by now has become such a banal way of trying to insult someone, it’s laughable.

    For God’s sake come up with something new. It’s pure intellectual laziness to fall back on racism the whole time.

    I think (in my case) it’s an honour to be called a racist nowadays. Under the apartheid regime I was called a “kommunis” and “K@ff#r Boetie”

    Now I am often called a racist. Dear heavens, it’s like “ducks water off my back”, as PW Botha once infamously said. Indeed.

  • http://n/a mayimele

    Thabo (December 2, 6:49), was the former President, Thabo Mbeki a leg of state when he was insulted and denigrated by the same JZ and his alliance of vavi, blade, mbalula, malema calling him names such as a dead snake, e.t.c not so long ago? Where were you sir to protect the head of state then? Is what matters to you only when the head of state concerned is JZ and not Mbeki? Do you know that Mbeki was also voted into that position of being a head of state by people and even over and above that in a more democratic and legitimate manner compared to the illegal and illegitimate manner in which JZ came to power? Do you know that by then when Mbeki was insulted the freedom of speech principle was already entrenched into our constitution and Mbeki, instead of constraining it by either challenging or threatening them that their insults were outside the ambit of this principle he just stretched it by keeping quite to date just to accommodate their poor understanding of politics and democracy as well as poor moral backgrounds or upbringing?

    You can still achieve what you want to achieve through your post by applying some objectives and fairness in your intervention.

  • http://n/a mayimele

    Muscle, if JZ can open a case against PdV it will be an acceptable lesser reaction after the presidency’s press release. In any case, itmight have become clear to JZ now that the legal route is not that effective to stubborn critics of undemocratic and immoral practices like Zapiro. My worrying fear is for JZ through the Luthuli House to set off the alliance puppies on Prof as they did to Prof Banny Pityane of UNISA. While Pityane may have been lucky, PdV might not. Since Pityane was accused of abusing his position for Cope’s gain, PdV’s charge will be being the legal adviser to the DA with regards to their challenge of the dropping of the JZ case as well as the appointment of Menzi Simelane.

  • Herman Lategan

    @ Mayimele, since when was Pierre the legal adviser to the DA? You’re probably being ironic, or tongue-in-cheek (although I doubt it), but really, how bizarre.

    Furthermore, let’s say he was a legal adviser to the DA? What’s wrong with that? Are we supposed to be stuck with the ANC for decades, just as we were stuck with the Nats for decades?

    We all know by now that the ANC is a joke. The only reason people keep voting them back into power is that South Africans can’t think for themselves.

    And by voting for the ANC you are sure to receive a disability grant at the drop of a hat (perfect nanny state) and get a job through your BEE cronies.

    As Robert Mc Bride’s “lovely” sister said at a dinner party, she votes for the ANC because it’s the only party that promotes affirmative action. What a great idea for a voting a limping party into power, over and over again.

    It suits the ANC fine to ruin the education system for example. Keep them stupid, the lumpen proletariat, so that they don’t read and so that they (like sheep) keep on voting us back into power.

    Ha ha ha…what a circus the ANC has turned into. What a bloody circus. And to think I voted for a party that is becoming a send-up of yet another African one party state.

    Oops, I forget, that sounds so Eurocentric. I forget that in Africa the big chief or his party rules until Jesus comes. (Which incidentally, is a Eurocentric notion, this whole silly Jesus thing.)

    O, yawn, and democracy is also so Eurocentric. This is Africa, where we have African traditions and culture. Let’s not imitate the West, for God’s sake.

    Except of course when it comes to soccer, which was started by the Romans. Oh those Romans, what a nasty bunch. Not to mention the Germans with their Audis, Mercs, BMWs…and Armani, that damn Italian.

    Jacob Zuma is a silly, smiling clown, and we are the fools who paid to come and watch this amateur circus. We should demand our money back.

    Donate it to Eskom, SAA, Armscor, Transnet, SABC…they need it.

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    Herman, I am surprised to see you ask “what would be wrong” if Pierre was indeed the DA’s legal adviser.

    Are you not aware that the DA is a party of RACIST LIBERALS?

    Did you not know that the slogan “Fight Back” means, subliminally speaking, “Fight Black”? (If you do not quite grasp this, Maggs will explain.)

    Finally, Herman, perhaps you have not noticed that the ANC is committed to SOCIALISM. The DA, in stark contrast, advocates CAPITALISM, a system whereunder a small minority become very wealthy, while most people remain very poor.`

  • http://maggsnaidu@hotmail.com Maggs Naidu

    Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder says:
    December 5, 2009 at 7:09 am

    “If you do not quite grasp this, Maggs will explain”

    Sorry Dworky,

    Can’t help with that one.

    More so since the architect of that strategy, is somewhere in the world, fighting back the fight back thingy.

    I rather prefer “Stop Zuma” vs “mshini wam”.

    On the subject of big guns, does the Taiwan consignment come pre knotted or is it specially moulded to suit you?

    I’m kinda wondering how it get “deployed”, considering your experience of having been all tied up during your struggle years.

    p.s. How are you?

  • http://attentiontodetail.wordpress.com TLS

    Too many comments and far too long.

    If the shoe fits, wear it.

    I don’t see why we cannot call any president names. Silvio Berlusconi surely behaves like a gangster, or in his native tongue, a mafioso.

    The South African president needs to be aware that people – some of whom voted him into power – are inclined to apply the appellation “gangster” when refering to him.

  • http://n/a mayimele

    Hi Mr Herman Lategang! Thank you for your response. May I kindly ask you to re-read my post together with that of Muscle, and see if your understanding of the message contained therein is correct?
    &*&*&
    Now that you have had a second look at it (as I have no reason to doubt you did) do you still stand by your allegation that I accused PdV of being a DA legal adviser and therefore the contents of your post above?

    Looking forward to your honest answer.

  • Herman Lategan

    @ mayimele: you must have been in quite a hurry when you wrote that post (the one under discussion), as on re-reading it, I am now even more confused than before.

    It’s a bit vague and clumsy quite frankly and leaves itself open to various interpretations, I’m afraid.

    @ Mikhail: As for the illustrious Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder, one can’t help but giggle. He is certainly a send-up like Evita Bezuidenhout, because his comments are even more dystopic and crazy than Artaud’s Theatre of the Absurd and Cruelty.

    With a surname like Fassbinder, he should rather call himself Petra von Kant, as in The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, by Rainer Werner Maria Fassbinder. Because with his line of thinking, albeit tongue-firmly-in-cheek, there WILL be many bitter tears.

    I once new a person like that in the Eighties. He lived on curried lentils and dust and never washed under his arms.

    On a recent trip to Valkenberg I saw that same man, now an inmate, staring hopelessly into the distance. His name was also Mikhali.

    Strange that…

  • Maggs Naidu

    Herman Lategan says:
    December 6, 2009 at 13:34 pm

    I understood Mayimele as suggesting that the ANC is likely to release its “dogs of war” on Pierre because Pierre’s rather strong criticism of Simelane and that the excuse to justify the attack would be to accuse Pierre of being a legal advisor to the DA.

    I think Mayimele is wrong.

    There may well be some who will loudly challenge Pierre’s criticisms, but a serious assault is unlikely in my view.

    That’s because, again as I read it, Pierre has not used any public forum to advance the interests of any political party or grouping and he has not tied his criticisms to any particular campaign, nor has he nailed his colours to any particular mast, notwithstanding the sometimes “intemperate language”.

    So far as I see it, Pierre’s challenges are referenced against the Constitution – so the labels of counterrevolutionary, reactionary, racist, right winger and and and, will reflect hollow minds rather than stick.

  • http://n/a mayimele

    Thank you Herman and Maggs for your responses. So both of you are confused by my post, with Herman topping the list as the most confused than Maggs. Ok, this can only means there is indeed something wrong with my post than with you guys. May be Herman is correct that I was in a rush when I penned it. Sorry therefore for confusing you with my evening school English. Let me try to clarify this issue in this way.
    My post follows Muscle’s statement that “I hope Zuma does not chuck a defamation case at you, something he has a habit of doing”.
    Based on this statement, I say that if JZ can take the legal route – opening a defamation case against PdV – that for me will be a lesser reaction or punishment to PdV which will be acceptable to me. Acceptable because it will be rational. I further state that the worse option which I fear for it being irrational and common to the ruling party in dealing with dissenting voices will be, as Maggs correctly captures it, for the Luthuli House to send its alliance youth leagues to attack PdV on the irrational grounds that he is abusing his position in the university by offering legal advice to the DA to, inter alia, pursue the case against the dropping of the JZ case and the appointment of Simelane as NDPP. This is what they did to Professor Barney Pityane and for me it was an irrational move. So, I am not in nay way alleging that PdV is a legal advisor to the DA; for even if he was giving them legal advice it would be within his rights to do so.
    I just hope I have clarified the issue. May be what I could have done in my initial post was to quote the Muscle’s statement above before making my point.

  • http://n/a mayimele

    Maggs, by asserting that the ruling party is likely to accuse PdV of being a legal advisor to DA I am not giving a political or legal opinion on possible grounds upon which the ruling party can challenge PdV’s criticism of its actions, I am merely guessing what their likely reaction could be based on how they dealt with similar situations before that involve people occupying similar positions as PdV’s.

    So this statement was not meant to invite scrutiny on its correctness or wrongness. I guess it is still as a result of being confused by my use of evening school English of which I offer my apology.

  • Norman Clemo

    The SA Constitution means nothing to
    the ruthless Bolshevists of the SA government and the ANC/SACP/COSATU Alliance

    Excerpt :

    BOLSHEVISM
    The Enemy of Political and Industrial Democracy
    BY
    JOHN SPARGO

    CHAPTER VI
    THE BOLSHEVIK WAR AGAINST DEMOCRACY

    No sympathizer with Russia—certainly no Socialist—can fail to wish that this indulgent criticism were true. Its acceptance would lighten the darkest chapter in Russian history, and, at the same time, remove from the great international Socialist movement a shameful reproach. But the facts are incompatible with such a theory. Instead of being fanatical idealists, incapable of compromises and adjustments, the Bolsheviki have, from the very beginning, been loudly scornful of rigid and unbending idealism; have made numerous compromises, alliances, and “political deals,” and have repeatedly shifted their ground in accordance with political expediency. They have been consistently loyal to no aim save one—the control of power. They have been opportunists of the most extreme type. There is not a single Socialist or democratic principle which they have not abandoned when it served, their political ends; not a single instrument, principle, or device of autocratic despotism which they have not used when by so doing they could gain power. For the motto of Bolshevism we might well paraphrase the well-known line of Horace, and make it read, “Get power, honestly, if you can, if not—somehow or other.”

  • Maggs Naidu

    @ Mayimele – I understood your post generally as you have explained it.

    I agree that if the ANC are at all interested in “neutralising” Pierre that may well be a route that will be adopted.

    However I don’t think Pierre will be that kind of target because, while he does not appear to be supportive of the ANC, he displays brinkmanship rather than partisanship and he generally relies on our constitution to make his voice of dissension heard.

    I shall refrain from expressing a view of Prof Pityane.

  • Chris

    “It is a good rule in life never to apologise. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.’ – PG Woodhouse (1881-1975)”

    (From De Rebus, December 2009)