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
5 May 2008

Mayor Pinocchio?

Maybe we are beginning to see why Helen Zille is so adamant to stop the Erasmus Commission from doing its job. Newspapers this weekend reported on allegations made by Premier Ebrahim Rasool in papers before the High Court in the application to have the Erasmus Commission of Enquiry declared illegal and/or unconstitutional and they make veryy interesting reading indeed.

No wonder Helen Zille has seemingly lost the plot and continues to argue (falsely) that the Constitutional Court has said that judges should not get involved with commission’s of enquiry if there is any chance that it would be politically controversial.

This is false because in South African Association of Personal Injury Lawyers v Heath the Constitutional Court said that given the principle of the separation of powers in our Constitution, a judge should not perform a task that is “incompatible with judicial office” and that one of the factors that might be relevant in deciding whether the task is incompatible with judicial office would be whether it would “create the risk of judicial entanglement in matters of political controversy”.

But the Court also said that judges can preside over commissions on inquiry because the performance of such a function “ordinarily calls for the qualities and skills required for the performance of judicial functions – independence, weighing-up of information, and giving a decision on the basis of a consideration of relevant information”.

Maybe Ms Zille has something to hide after all? From the Cape Times comes this report:

Premier Ebrahim Rasool alleges that Mayor Helen Zille may have had a bigger role than she has asserted in the city’s dealings with the private investigators hired to probe councillor Badih Chaaban.

This is among charges levelled by Rasool in an affidavit he submitted to the High Court on Wednesday, in response to the city’s application last month to have the Erasmus Commission declared invalid.

Rasool alleged Zille had “regular Monday morning meetings” with operatives of the investigating firm, George Fivaz and Associates.

The meetings had also been attended by DA members who are not city council office-bearers. He charged that her telephone records pointed to “personal contacts” with the investigations firm.

This morning Zille dismissed Rasool’s allegations as “lies” that were “very easy to refute”.

Interesting stuff. I am looking forward to hear Ms Zille’s side of the story (apart from a blanket denial which does not really enlighten us) and to hear how she will refute these claims. If they are easy to refute, I am sure she will let us have all the evidence to refute these claims in the next day or two.

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