Quote of the week

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.

Plasket AJ
Victoria Park Ratepayers' Association v Greyvenouw CC and others (511/03) [2003] ZAECHC 19 (11 April 2003)
27 February 2007

Motata a chance….

News24 reports that Justice department officials were unable to explain on Tuesday why a Pretoria judge appeared in a magistrate’s chambers, instead of an open court, in connection with a drunken-driving incident. On Tuesday, High Court Judge Nkola Motata appeared briefly in the magistrate’s chambers in Hillbrow courts. Magistrate Herman Visser said the senior prosecutor had asked that Motata appear in chambers.

We all know, of course, why Judge Motata appeared in chambers – it’s because he is more important than us and thus above the normal legal process to which especially poor people are subjected. If the senior prosecutor in this case is not disciplined by the Department of Justice for this scandalous actions, a great big stink should be made by all and sundry. If the Rule of Law (such as it might be) means anything, it means that no one is above the law and that all people – even judges – must be treated according to the same rules.

But because Judge Motata is a judge he was clearly given special treatment. This undermines respect for the law amongst ordinary people and ultimately undermines respect for our precious democracy. The fact that the prosecutor thought this was appropriate is particularly worrying seeing that he or she is supposed to be at the forefront of enforcing the law.

But then again, in a country where the previous Director of Public Prosecutions made a decision not to pursue a criminal case against Jacob Zuma because of his position as Deputy President of the country and the ANC, it is no wonder that lowly prosecutor thinks that high-ups should get special treatment.

The fact that Judge Motata played along in this disgraceful charade is just another black mark against his name. He, of all people – sworn to uphold the Constitution and the law – should know that no one deserves special treatment before the law and that in his position he has a responsibility to face the music in open court.

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