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 January 2009

Rule of Law or above the law?

It has become an all too depressing story: some bigwig politicians or their VIP protectors who mouth platitudes about being servants of the people around election time but really have egos the size of China, drive in a screaming cavalcade of cars to a very important lunch date or a drinks date with a gilrfriend, when suddenly something goes wrong and a poor motorist who happens to have been around is injured or killed.

I find this kind of story so depressing because it seems to suggest that human beings have an uncanny yearning to be pompous and self-important and that servants of the people think they are better than the rest of us and do not have to abide by the law.

At the end of last year a newspaper reported that Mr Jacob Zuma travelled in a convoy of 33 vehicles while campaigning in Limpopo. Even though Zuma is not a public office-bearer, 22 of these vehicles belonged to state law enforcement agencies, and the whole cavalcade stretched for over a kilometre. Traffic officers forced traffic in both directions off the road; crossings on the route were blocked off so that the convoy could proceed without interruption; and roadblocks were set up to stall other motorists.

And just today it was reported that the presidency’s VIP protection unit confiscated equipment from the SABC during a scuffle on the N12 outside Johannesburg after President Kgalema Motlanthe’s motorcade was involved in an accident on the highway, east of Johannesburg on Saturday.  A red VW Golf apparently collided with a car in the president’s convoy. Motlanthe was unhurt. When SABC journalists arrived, their footage was confiscated.

Who the hell do these politicians think they are? Why can’t they follow the rules of the road like us mere mortals? Why do they think they are so important that they can break every traffic rule in the book while they tell the rest of us to “Arrive Alive”? The bloody cheek.

It depresses me no end that politicians in South Africa follow the American example instead of, say, the example of the Netherlands or Belgium where Ministers often are seen cycling to work – even when the TV cameras are not turned on. There are two reasons why I find this kind of dangerous and stupid behaviour so depressing.

First, the huge cavalcades and the blue lights reflect so badly on the character of our politicians. It suggests that they have such little inherent regard for themselves and loath themselves so much that they have to puff themselves up with this kind of ridiculous show of importance. The men are probably all worried about the size of their equipment and their virility and think they can make up for this with the size of their convoy. How tacky. How embarrassing. How laughable. They are worst than the dictator in the Coke add.

Second, the speeding convoys also suggest that some politicians think that they are above the law and that they do not need to respect the Rule of Law. If this is what they do in broad day light, for all to see, what are they then doing behind closed doors. What rules are they breaking far away from the limelight?

No wonder corruption is on the increase in South Africa. With insecure fools like this setting the example, who can blame the average traffic cop earning a pittance for also breaking ther rules. But of course, none of these politicians or the protection service personnel will ever be charged so they will remain innocent until proven guilty and thus in the eyes of pshycophants will remain pure as the driven snow.

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