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
20 October 2008

Salary increase for John Hlope an excellent idea

The Cape Argus reported on Friday that Cape Judge President John Hlophe, who is on leave pending an investigation into allegations of gross misconduct against him, will be earning R1.4 m annually following the 11% increase for all judicial officers. The pay increase, which was gazetted last week, will be backdated to 1 April.

The tone of the report (not available online) suggests that this is a bad thing. I disagree.

Judges must be paid a decent salary to ensure their independence and impartiality and to ensure that high quality lawyers make themselves available for selection to the Bench. Over the past ten years the salaries of judges have actually decreased in real terms while the need to attract good lawyers to the Bench from designated groups have increased.

This is no excuse for the Oasis debacle, but perhaps the Judge President would never have gotten himself in such a terrible ethical fix if he had been paid a salary commensurate with his position.

For us ordinary folks who slave away for less money, this might sounds like a high salary, but it is a small price to pay to safeguard against corruption on the Bench and to ensure that the quality of those who apply for positions on the Bench do not decrease so fatally that justice will not be able to be done in any way.

While I am of the opinion (along with about half the members of the Judicial Services Commission) that Judge President Hlophe should have faced an impeachment hearing because of his unethical entaglment with the Oasis group, I do not begrudge judges relatively decent salaries.

I suppose the state must realise “you get what you pay for” and if the state fails to pay judges well the administration of justice will deteriorate even further and we will all be worse off. So, even though a few cents of my taxes are going to the salary of John Hlophe, I am paying it with a smile on my face.

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