Regard must be had to the higher standard of conduct expected from public officials, and the number of falsehoods that have been put forward by the Public Protector in the course of the litigation. This conduct included the numerous “misstatements”, like misrepresenting, under oath, her reliance on evidence of economic experts in drawing up the report, failing to provide a complete record, ordered and indexed, so that the contents thereof could be determined, failing to disclose material meetings and then obfuscating the reasons for them and the reasons why they had not been previously disclosed, and generally failing to provide the court with a frank and candid account of her conduct in preparing the report. The punitive aspect of the costs order therefore stands.
“The national working committee views these reports with grave concern, not merely because [they] violate an individual’s right to privacy, but because [they] affect the right of all South Africans to expect their medical information to remain confidential.”
But the privacy of the Minister is not really the issue. Surely the statement from the ANC should have disputed the accuracy of the claims made by the Sunday Times. The “character assassination” by the Sunday Times does not stem from the breach of the Minister’s medical privacy, but from seriously defamatory statements about her drinking habits and about the abuse of power and corruption by the Minister and her Doctors.
The only way the Minister, the doctors involved and the Hospital can restore their reputations is by instituting a defamation action against the Sunday Times. If the allegations are untrue, they will be able to sue the pants of the newspaper and probably get a pretty penny out of the deal.
If they fail to sue, the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn would be that the newspaper report was correct and that there was corruption involved in the liver transplant. If this happens, the Minister should be fired and the Doctors scrapped from the medical roll.
The Presidency has asked for evidence of wrongdoing before taking action against the Minister. All the proof it may need will be provided by the absence of a defamation suit. But of course, even then the President will not fire the Minister because he will look weak and disloyal if he does. This means he is now probably stuck with a Minister which may well prove to be a thief and drunk and an abuser of her power.
I give the Minister and her Doctors two weeks to institute defamation proceedings. If they fail to do so, I will assume that the story is true.