An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.
IDASA MEDIA RELEASE 11 April 2011
Time for better guidelines following allegations of fraud and extravagance by Minister Shiceka Along with most South Africans, Idasa has learned with great disappointment of Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka’s alleged dishonesty and abuse of official travel and accommodation privileges.
If there is truth in these serious allegations, President Jacob Zuma has little option but to take the strongest disciplinary steps against his Cabinet colleague, and possibly lay a criminal charge of fraud against him. That he has admitted conduct that makes him guilty of extremely poor judgment, for which he seems unremorseful, adds weight to this imperative: Leaders are correctly held to a higher standard.
“Minister Shiceka must go”, says Idasa’s Judith February. “It is time for the President to take a firm hand against Ministers who bring South Africa into disrepute by flouting the guidelines and who may even have acted fraudulently.”
While this situation demands a quick and decisive response, one should not lose sight of the wider fact that executive self-regulation on matters of privilege is simply not working. The Ministerial Handbook, that is supposed to provide guidance for the effective management of public expenditure on these matters, continues to fail us all. The current reports are only the latest in a string of increasingly distressing excesses by the country’s leaders. The gulf between public expectations and ministerial lack of prudence and self-restraint is becoming a chasm.
The Handbook exhorts adherence to the laudable values of careful planning, necessity and austerity. But it is clear that we cannot continue to trust our political leaders to utilise their privileges with wisdom and compassion. The promised review of the Handbook is long overdue. Once again, the executive has failed to act with diligence and urgency to manage their privileges responsibly.
It is inadequate to rely on the Auditor-General to tell us afterwards that there has been abuse; we must prevent it. Directors-General, accountable to Parliament for expenditure by their Ministers, must be empowered to refuse permission for this wasteful expenditure. The Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers has been established by the Constitution to determine senior leaders’ salaries and pensions.
Perhaps it must now be permitted to determine the limits of public expenditure on executive privileges. We need to debate the options: either spending caps and clear rules to enable accounting officers to draw the line with authority, or far greater real time transparency of executive expenditure on privileges.
For further comment, please contact:
Judith February, Manager of Idasa’s Political Information and Monitoring Service, on
083 453 9817, or
Gary Pienaar, Senior Researcher on 082 541 4221