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
12 October 2007

Lies, damn lies and Presidential woppers

Several years ago newly appointed Mpumalanga premier, Ndaweni Mahlangu, got into hot water for saying he thought it was acceptable for politicians to lie. Of course Mahlangu – rumoured to have been selected for Premier of Mpumalanga because the Presidency had confused him with another man with a similar name – did not last long in office, perhaps because chastised by the media uproar about his (ironic!) honesty, he forgot to lie when required to do so by the party. But his benefactor, Thabo Mbeki, is still in office and hoping for a third term as President of the ANC and has learnt a thing or two from the has been politician.

This is perhaps why in his quest for a third term the President and his spokesperson, Themba Maseko, have both obviously taken Mr. Mahlangu’s advice to heart. How else to interpret the contradictory statements coming out of the Presidency. When first confronted with allegations that his police Chief was a corrupt man involved in all kinds of illegal activities he invited anyone with information to come forward with the evidence. But when Vusi Pikoli presented such evidence to a magistrate and obtained a warrant of arrest for the Police Chief, Mbeki suspended the National Director. Selebi on the other hand, remains in office.

It is therefore difficult not to conclude that the President was lying when he said he would act against the police chief if presented with the credible evidence. Although a magistrate was presented with credible enough evidence to allow her to issue an arrest warrant for the police chief, the President was not convinced and, bang, there goes Pikoli. Of course our President is a wise man and probably knows more about criminal law than the a magistrate that works with these issues every day – just as he probably knows more about the AIDS virus than all those doctors who won Nobel Prizes for their research on the topic.

Even more absurd – we are moving into Monty Python territory here – is the statement yesterday by Presidential spokesperson, Maseko, that the cabinet continues to have confidence in the police chief because no evidence exists to contradict his innocence. When pushed, he said that Mbeki had not seen the evidence on the basis of which a arrest warrant was issued and cannot act on mere “rumours” – hence Selebi’s suspension is out of the question.

Now this strikes me as being, how shal I put it, well, a whopping lie. How on earth could the President not have seen the evidence against Selebi. In terms of the NPA Act the Minister has the right to request the National Director to provide her with any information about any investigation and one would imagine that given the high profile nature of the case she was provided with such information in the Selebi case. Anyone believing that she had not requested such information and had not at least discussed it with the President, should have their heads read because they are living in cloud-coo cu land.

On the other hand, if what these people are telling us is true, they are obviously criminally negligent. Imagine: you are the President of a relatively important mid-seized developing country whose police chief is head of Interpol. Your Attorney General issues a warrant for the arrest of your police chief. So what do you do to find out whether you should not perhaps suspend the police chief? Well, nothing. You just sit around drinking whiskey and you don’t even think to ask the Minister of Justice to let you know what the bloody hell is going on and what evidence this whole arrest warrant is based on. If this is really what happend, Mbeki is not fit to run the Putsonderwater Jukskei club, let alone South Africa.

Clearly he is not asking about the evidence because he does not want to know about the evidence. The evidence does not suit him, so it must be ignored.

What upsets me so about this whole affair is that the people in the Presidency are either so arrogant or so stupid that they think we will believe them when they tell us such blatant lies. It reflects a shocking disregard for the people of South Africa and for the political system. What it really says is: we do not care what you think because what the people think does not matter to us because we know best in any case.

Where is Mr. Mahlangu now that we need him? At least he was honest enough to admit that lying was part of a politicians arsenal. In my ever increasing mood of ABM (Anyone-But-Mbeki), I might even support him if he emerges as a player in the ANC succession race.

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