Regard must be had to the higher standard of conduct expected from public officials, and the number of falsehoods that have been put forward by the Public Protector in the course of the litigation. This conduct included the numerous “misstatements”, like misrepresenting, under oath, her reliance on evidence of economic experts in drawing up the report, failing to provide a complete record, ordered and indexed, so that the contents thereof could be determined, failing to disclose material meetings and then obfuscating the reasons for them and the reasons why they had not been previously disclosed, and generally failing to provide the court with a frank and candid account of her conduct in preparing the report. The punitive aspect of the costs order therefore stands.
Why then the gnashing of teeth when journalists commented on the Minister’s Health earlier in the week? Sometimes members of the government seem uncomfortable with operating in a country with a free press. Their insticts seem to deny anything they might perceive to be embarrassing and which they think there are not hard “objective” proof for.
What they do not understand is that in a democracy the press and us ordinary voters – if we are responsible citizens – take what government spokespersons say with a pinch of salt. This does not make us Afro-pessimists, just sane, sceptical people who do not trust power not to corrupt.