Quote of the week

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.

KHAMPEPE J and THERON J
Public Protector v South African Reserve Bank (CCT107/18) [2019] ZACC 29 (22 July 2019)
4 February 2007

Paranoid, imperious, undemocratic?

The response of Themba Maseko, spokesperson for President Thabo Mbeki, published in the Sunday Times to the near-launch of an anti-crime campaign by FNB neatly suggests a hubris and paranoia that is fast becoming associated with his Royal Aloofness and the sycophants around him.

The planned FNB campaign was addressed directly at President Mbeki, asking him to make crime the number one priority of his government.

I happen to think the proposed campaign was a stupid idea to start with. For one thing, there are other issues like poverty reduction and HIV/AIDS that should be just as high up on the government’s priority list as crime is.

But Mr Maseko’s response does not take issue merely with the wisdom of FNB’s campaign, rather it seems to suggest that the bank did not have the right to launch such a campaign because the President was really above that kind of criticism. He labelled the campaign as “incitement” against Mbeki.

“Positioning themselves as an opposition party is not appropriate … Trying to incite people to behave in a certain way towards the head of state cannot be condoned,” Maseko said.

What utter crap.

One can only hope that higher ups in the Presidency will whisper in his ear to avoid the repeat of such embarrasing and dangerous drivel. It is not only our democratic right but our duty as citizens and as members of civil society to try and stop the President from acting like a fool. Politics is far too important to leave to political parties only.

For Mr Maseko to suggest that by criticising the President and launching a campaign to try and influence his policies constitutes “incitement”, is to imply that FNB is disloyal, even treasonous.

This suggests that business have no right to criticise the President, that our Dear Leader is somehow above criticism and that pointing out his foibles is treasonous. Mr Maseko might have forgotten that in a democracy the President is our servant and not the other way around.

If he does not want to listen to us we can get rid of him and his party at the next election. In that sense, we all have a duty to incite against his Royal Aloofness if we think he is not doing his job properly. We would be bad and unpatriotic South Africans if we kept quiet in those circumstances.

Mr Maseko (and the Presidency at large), has a right to criticise those who campaign against the President on the substance of the issue of crime, but he is acting against the spirit of our democratic constitution by suggesting we have no right to criticise our leaders.

Surely this is not official policy?

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