Quote of the week

Although judicial proceedings will generally be bound by the requirements of natural justice to a greater degree than will hearings before administrative tribunals, judicial decision-makers, by virtue of their positions, have nonetheless been granted considerable deference by appellate courts inquiring into the apprehension of bias. This is because judges ‘are assumed to be [people] of conscience and intellectual discipline, capable of judging a particular controversy fairly on the basis of its own circumstances’: The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, for as Blackstone opined at p. 361 in Commentaries on the Laws of England III . . . ‘[t]he law will not suppose possibility of bias in a judge, who is already sworn to administer impartial justice, and whose authority greatly depends upon that presumption and idea’. Thus, reviewing courts have been hesitant to make a finding of bias or to perceive a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of a judge, in the absence of convincing evidence to that effect.

L'Heureux-Dube and McLachlin JJ
Livesey v The New South Wales Bar Association [1983] HCA 17; (1983) 151 CLR 288
24 March 2014

CASAC statement on Public protector’s Nkandla Report

CASAC Statement: Public Protector’s Report on Nkandla 24 March 2014

The Public Protector is appointed under the Constitution to strengthen constitutional democracy by probing improper conduct and maladministration in state affairs. In her report on the upgrades at the President’s private residence at Nkandla she has found that the President has violated the Constitution.

The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) believes that under these circumstances, it is necessary to consider whether the violation is of such a serious nature to require invoking the provisions of section 89 (1) of the Constitution. In our opinion, the issue is whether it would be constitutionally intolerable for the President to remain in office.

The Public Protector has made a positive finding that the President acted in breach of section 96(1) and (2) of the Constitution (paragraphs 10.10.1.5 and 10.10.1.6 of the Public Protector’s report). These sections place two obligations on the President. First, he must comply with the code of ethics for members of the Executive. Second, he must not act in a manner inconsistent with his office or expose himself to a situation of a conflict of interest.

CASAC Executive Secretary, Lawson Naidoo says: “The Public Protector has found that the President violated both constitutional duties. First, by wearing “two hats” as guardian of the country’s resources and as a direct personal beneficiary of improper privileges, he violated the duty to avoid placing his personal interests in conflict with those of the state. Second, by failing to cause an investigation as soon as he became aware of the expenditure into his home, he acted in a manner inconsistent with the duty to protect public funds.”

Section 89(1) (a) provides that the President may be removed from office by a resolution supported by two thirds of the members of the National Assembly, for a “serious violation” of the Constitution or the law, or in terms of s. 89 (1)(b) for “serious misconduct”. Given the findings of the investigation as a whole, the quantum of the monies expended and the role of the President, it would be difficult to sustain any argument that the findings of the Public Protector do not amount to serious violations or misconduct.

CASAC therefore believes that it would be constitutionally intolerable for Parliament not to consider whether the constitutional violation or the misconduct identified by the Public Protector fall within the category of violations in section 89 (1).

We call upon the Speaker of the National Assembly to convene a sitting of that House to deliberate on this matter.

For further enquiries please contact Lawson Naidoo 073 158 5736 or 021 685 8809 Lawson@casac.org.za

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