Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
5 February 2007

Hlophe case "unprecedented"

Robin Palmer, Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal says in a report in the Sunday Argus that the Hlophe/Desai case is unprecedented in South Africa’s legal history. A situation where a judge was facing defamation claims and the judge-president could be called to testify and possibly face hostile cross-examination was “highly undesirable”.

Meanwhile Sheila Camerer of the DA called for the Judicial Service Commission to reopen its investigation into Hlophe.

The problem is, of course, that the JSC is hopelessly divided on this matter. The Hansie Cronje effect has come in to play, so some members of the JSC will probably be loyal to Justice Hlope even if he admits that he only gave permission for Justife Desai to be sued because he received money from the Oasis group.

There is an urgent need for the Minister of Justice – or somebody at the Ministery who actually does anything – to finalise the Bill that will set up a system to deal with disciplinary matters against judges. What is required is the establishment of a sub-committee of the JSC, composed at the very least, of a majority of senior judges and chaired by the Chief Justice, to look into allegations of conflicts of interest and corruption against judges.

It would be untenable for such a committee to be controlled by civillians with overt political agendas. The indepenence of the judiciary requires that judges should be in control of their own disciplinary process. But one or two civillians could be added to ensure that the body does not become a toothless club protecting colleagues who should be brought to book.

This sub-committee should deal with judges on the basis of a code of conduct setting out what is required of a judge in terms of ethics and behaviour and should allow for reccommendations that range from suspension and docking of pay to full impeachment.

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