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.
“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.