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
19 November 2006

Goniwe, our own Mark Thatcher?

Mbulelo Goniwe seems to be gonners as chief whip. The poor Eastern Cape might now be saddled with him, but his recent troubles might mean the end of even that avenue of politcal advancement.

The question is why a person so obviously and fatally flawed as Goniwe had ever been elevated to the very important position of Chief Whip of the ANC in Parliament. I happen to think the ANC remains a relatively principled organisation (for a political party in power, that is). So why would they elect such an obviously flawed person to the high position of Chief Whip?

The answer, I think, is that Mbulelo’s father was Mathew Goniwe, a leader of the UDF who was callously murdered by the apartheid government in the nineteen eighties.

So because of his family name he was elected as chief whip of the ANC in the National Assembly.

I was thinking about him when I read the scathing review article by R.W. Johnson about Mark Thatcher, son of the lady who was not for turning, in the London Review of Books.

Johnson, a right wing commentator residing in Constantia Cape Town (just like … Mark Thatcher) who must have been quite a fan of Lady Thatcher, starts his article by saying:

Mark Thatcher, talentless, and so graceless that the most charming thing about him was that he would sometimes introduce himself as ‘charmless Mark’, was – is – doted on by ‘Mummy’, in whose eyes he could do no wrong and who insisted, against all the evidence, that he was a ‘born businessman’.

In South Africa it would be difficult to imagine a journalist writing about Goniwe in such contemptuous terms. But that does not mean that there are not similarities between the two.

Its is a good omen that the ANC seems to have taken decisive action against Goniwe, despite his famous name. Maybe its a sign of a new understanding that in the long run the shenanigans of a Goniwe will cost the ANC some votes, no matter how hopeless the DA might be.

On another level it is depressing to think that we are no different from places like the USA (George Bush), or India (the Ghandi’s) in that names often mean more than ability. So much for the capitalist spirit.

Slight amendment (19 November 2006): Michael Osborn points out that R.W. Johnson has never been a great fan of Mrs. T. If one reads the complete review in the London Review of Books this becomes apparent.

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