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
30 May 2008

The end of JP John Hlophe?

Just received the following statement from the judges of the Constitutional Court. Surely now the JP is toast? Is he out of his mind to try and influence judges in the Constitutional Court on an issue to be decided by them?

A complaint that the Judge President of the Cape High Court, Judge John Hlophe, has approached some of the judges of the Constitutional Court in an improper attempt to influence this Court’s pending judgment in one or more cases has been referred by the judges of this Court to the Judicial Service Commission, as the constitutionally appointed body to deal with complaints of judicial misconduct.

The complaint relates to the matters of Thint (Pty) Ltd v National Director of Public Prosecutions and Others (CCT 89/07), JG Zuma and Another v National Director of Public Prosecutions and Others (CCT 91/07), Thint Holdings (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd and Another v National Director of Public Prosecutions (CCT 90/07) and JG Zuma v National Director of Public Prosecutions (CCT 92/07). Argument in these matters was heard in March 2008. Judgment was reserved in all four matters. The Court has not yet handed down judgment.

We stress that there is no suggestion that any of the litigants in the cases referred to in paragraph 1 was aware of or instigated this action. The judges of this Court view conduct of this nature in a very serious light.

South Africa is a democratic state, founded on certain values. These include constitutional supremacy and the rule of law. This is stated in section 1 of our Constitution. The judicial system is an indispensible component of our constitutional democracy.

In terms of section 165 of the Constitution the courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law, which they must apply impartially and without fear, favour or prejudice. No person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of the courts. Organs of state must assist and protect the courts to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the Courts.

Each judge or acting judge is required by item 6 of schedule 2 of the Constitution, on the assumption of office, to swear an oath or solemnly affirm that she or he will uphold and protect the Constitution and will administer justice to all persons alike without fear, favour or prejudice, in accordance with the Constitution and the law. Other judicial officers or acting judicial officers must swear or affirm in terms of national legislation.

Any attempt to influence this or any other Court outside proper court proceedings therefore not only violates the specific provisions of the Constitution regarding the role and function of courts, but also threatens the administration of justice in our country and indeed the democratic nature of the state. Public confidence in the integrity of the courts is of crucial importance for our constitutional democracy and may not be jeopardised.

This Court – and indeed all courts in our country – will not yield to or tolerate unconstitutional, illegal and inappropriate attempts to undermine their independence or impartiality. Judges and other judicial officers will continue – to the very best of their ability – to adjudicate all matters before them in accordance with the oath or solemn affirmation they took, guided only by the Constitution and the law.

30 May 2008

 

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