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
27 June 2008

SABC and the ANC – dangerous moves

News reports suggest that the ANC in Parliament wants to amend the Broadcasting Act to give Parliament the power to hire and fire the SABC Board.

This is a dangerous and astonishingly stupid idea because it would make the SABC Board directly beholden to the majority party in Parliament. If the National Assembly can fire the SABC board they will be tempted top put pressure on the board to toe the party line or be fired. This will scupper any last vestige of independence at His Masters Voice.

Can one trust any majority partuy in parliament not to abuse such power? The answer is, of course, that one cannot. Besides section 192 of the Constitution states that national legislation must establish an independent authority to regulate broadcasting in the public interest, and to ensure fairness and a diversity of views broadly representing South African society.

This suggests that broadcasting must occur in the public interest and that the SABC should not be beholden to the majority party whims in Parliament.

What is required is not more political control of the SABC but LESS political control. The reason why there is such a mess at the SABC is exactly because Mbeki forced the National Assembly to appoint a Board it had not selected. This was probably illegal but now it is a bit late to do anything about it.

Much better would be to amend the Broadcasting Act to ensure that the appointment of the SABC Board is de-politicised. But the chances of this happening is about as slim as the chances of Robert Mugabe having tea with Morgan Tsvangirai.

Ai politicians. What did we do to deserve them?

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