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
5 March 2012

Democratic left Front on Nzimande’s “red herring” attack on liberalism


In his 29 February 2012 Red Alert ‘Liberals as eternal political hypocrites’ column, Blade Nzimande (the SACP General Secretary) deliberately conflates his attacks on often racist liberalism in South Africa with an anti-democratic attack on genuine working class campaigns against the Secrecy Bill and the e-tolling system in Gauteng.

The SACP has also opportunistically railed against the untransformed judiciary in a manner that fundamentally attacks the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers. These attacks on the judiciary are also typically silent on the foundations of injustice in this society. Also included in the SACP’s aim has been civil society.

The Democratic Left Front (DLF) does not stand for or defend the hypocrisy of past and current liberalism in South Africa which is primarily interested in preserving privileges inherited from slavery, colonialism, apartheid and capitalism.

However, the DLF warns against the SACP’s consistent construction of liberalism into a vague category that lumps all critiques of the ANC government. The DLF underlines this as deliberate conflation which seeks to delegitimise any critique of the rising securocratic authoritarianism of the ANC government that Nzimande serves in.

The SACP attacks basic democratic rights and freedoms not to transform the state but as part of the turn to authoritarian state capitalism in which a ruling elite can efficiently discipline and exploit social forces for capitalist economic growth.

The SACP’s attack on rights and freedoms is condescending as it also regards poor and working people as blind fools who must be guarded against counter-revolutionary liberal civil society.

The DLF wishes to underline that the logic of the ANC’s rising authoritarianism is a manifest admission on the part of the ANC government of its failure to transform South Africa in the interests of poor and working people.

It is not any other party but the ANC that has stayed the course of anti-poor neo-liberal policies combined together with the retribalisation of the countryside. As a result of these policies, we have seen massive job losses, labour broking, failed land reform, use of the state for accumulation, elite capture of rural areas and many other failures of the post-apartheid government.

The point is not to do as Nzimande does: to counterpose the DA’s anti-poor neo-liberalism with that of the ANC government in which he serves (“my e-tolling in Gauteng is better than your toll gates on Chapman’s peak in Cape Town”). The point is to engage in consistent social mobilisation against neo-liberalism and for concrete alternatives to it. In this regard, COSATU is spot on to call for a civil disobedience campaign against e-tolling. The DLF fully supports this.

If Nzimande was not listening, working class voices came through very clearly during the public hearings on the Secrecy Bill: poor and working people do not accept this law. Poor and working people yearn for a deep democracy in which there is transparency, accountability and substantive consultation. Yet, Nzimande’s SACP stands firmly against these working class voices on this law.

Let Nzimande know that were it not for those he rubbishes as `civil society` there would have been no right to HIV/AIDS treatment in South Africa, there would be no mobilisation against the abuse of farm workers, there would be no court case against food companies who fix bread prices, there would be no defence of the people’s right to know. Indeed, NGOs and other components of civil society have many limitations, problems and challenges. None of these should be opportunistically used by an SACP that merely serves to provide ‘left cover’ for the ANC government’s anti-worker and anti-poor policies.

The real lesson for the working class is not to do shadow-boxing with some liberal civil society. The real enemy facing poor and working people are the neo-liberal policies which Nzimande’s 2012/13 government budget sustains and its promotion of anti-democratic measures. Amongst others, these measures include the Secrecy Bill, the failure to act against corruption, factionalisation of the state, the opportunist and self-serving ANC-SACP attacks on the judiciary and the transfer of governmental power to unelected and unaccountable traditional leaders. The DLF calls on poor and working people to sustain their mobilisation against all these anti-democratic measures and for pro-poor, pro-worker policies. It is such sustained mass mobilisation that will win poor and working people’s demands, and not trust in those who serve in neo-liberal governments.

Statement issued by Brian Ashley, Mazibuko K. Jara and Vishwas Satgar, Democratic Left Front, March 2 2012

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