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.
At the weekend Judge Squires said he has never used the words “generally corrupt” to describe the relationship between Shaik and Jacob Zuma. However, the SCA’s five judges has ascribed these words to him in their decision to uphold Shaik’s sentence. Have the judges made a mistake?
The phrase does not appear in Judge Squires written judgment, so for the SCA to refer to it as if it does, is an embarrasing mistake on their part. They must be feeling a bit red-faced this morning.
The mistake is a minor technical one and does not materially affect the reasoning on which they based their judgment. It decidedly does not nullify their findings because the findings is based on a wide range of facts which Judge Squires found to be true beyond reasonable doubt and which the SCA endorsed. No one has argued that these findings of fact, including findings about payments made to Mr Zuma by Shaik and favours done by Mr Zuma for Shaik, is incorrect.
Can Shaik ask for the his case to be reviewed again?
He can ask the
Constitutional Courtto hear an appeal on the basis that he did not receive a fair trial. Given the Constitutional Court‘s jurisprudence on this point, his chances of success are very small to non-existent. Judges are human and make mistakes all the time. Unless the mistake is material to the finding of guilt, it is not going to have any bearing on the outcome of a case or an appeal.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is calling for the resignation of the five judges. Is Vavi right?
Mr Vavi’s call is irresponsible and misguided and is an attempt to politicise the legal process. It undermines the independence of the judiciary and is regretable. If we require every judge who has ever made a small technical mistake like this to resign, we will not have any judges left in
. The Constitution allows for the impeachment of a judge if he or she acted in a way that is grossly incompetent or if he or she is guilty of gross misconduct. This is clearly not such a case and for Mr Vavi to suggest that it is, is misleading. South Africa
What processes must be followed to remove a SCA judge?
A Judge can be removed on the above mentioned grounds or if he or she suffers from incapacity only after the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has investigated the matter and found that one of these grounds existed. They must find – objectively speaking, in other words based not on political consideratiopns but on fact – that a judge was grossly incomptent or guilty of gross misconduct. After making such a finding, the JSC will refer the matter to the National Assembly who can then vote to impeach that judge with a supporting vote of at least two thirds of its members. No judge has ever been impeached in
‘s history and these five judges will not be impeached either. This is because they have not been grossly negligent or have made themselves guilty of gross misconduct. South Africa
Does this new information make it more difficult for the National Prosecuting Authority to charge Zuma?
No, not at all. If Mr Zuma is charged, it will be a new case where much of the same evidence will be presented. Whether the phrase was used in the original judgment is neither here nor there. What the State will have to show is that Mr Zuma had the intention to be corrupt and that he did favours for Mr Shaik BECAUSE of the money paid to him. BUT I suspect if Mr Zuma is charged his lawyers will try to use this gaffe by the SCA to argue that there should be a permanent stay of prosecution because even judges have been poisoned by media arguments against Mr Zuma and it would therefore be impossible for him to receive a fair trial. Such an argument will be politically wise, playing into the victimhood posture of Mr Zuma, but I would be surprised if a court in South
Africaagrees with it.
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