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.
In the clip below Mr. Mac Maharaj (in an interview with Justice Malala) declines to state that he never lied to the Scorpions during a section 28 interview. Asked several times about this, he refused to deny that he lied. Lying to the Scorpions is prohibited by section 28 of the NPA Act. That section says that a persons who fails to answer fully and to the best of his or her ability any question lawfully put to him or her; or who gives false evidence knowing that evidence to be false or not knowing or not believing it to be true, is guilty of a crime and if found guilty would be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 15 years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.
He also refused to deny that he had received a bribe from an arms deal company. Blustering, and claiming that he was being treated unfairly, he pointedly declined to say whether his wife received money from an arms deal company. In effect he admitted to payments as he said this was part of a much larger investigation and if one had the bigger picture one would not judge him. Making vague allegations that there were “many inaccuracies” in the Sunday Times article (thus admitting that many aspects of the article was true) he also appeared to argue that because he was never charged it is irrelevant whether him or his wife received a bribe from an arms deal company. As long as he was not charged, that should be the end of the matter.
The absence of a denial – even when given all opportunity to do so – raises very serious questions about the probity of the spokesperson of the President of South Africa. His performance in this interview, I am sad to say, leaves one with an uneasy feeling that Mr Maharaj has something to hide. Maybe he is just a bad spin doctor who does not have the ability to convey the truth with the necessary conviction and in a tone that instills trust. Or maybe he is as guilty as he inadvertently presents himself to be in this interview. Watch the full interview and judge for yourself.
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