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)
20 July 2007

Thabo Mbeki = George W. Bush?

In idle moments I have often wondered whether – despite the obvious ideological differences – there are not perhaps remarkable similarities between President’s George W. Bush and Thabo Mbeki. Both have a messianic streak and both seem to have a tendency to ignore difficulties that do not fit into their ideologically tinted world view. Both also seem incapable of admitting a problem or a mistake, perhaps because they think they alone have a grip on the “Truth”.

President Mbeki for a long time tried to get people to rethink the link between HIV and AIDS because it was untenable for him to admit that many South Africans would die because they had sex with lots of people (as if that in and of itself was a bad thing). Bush is still pretending things are going well in Iraq, which makes one fear for his sanity, really.

I was struck again by the possible similarities, reading Paul Krugman’s column (subscription needed) in the New York Times this morning. Money quote:

I wrote about the Bush administration’s “infallibility complex,” its inability to admit mistakes or face up to real problems it didn’t want to deal with, in June 2002. Around the same time Ron Suskind, the investigative journalist, had a conversation with a senior Bush adviser who mocked the “reality-based community,” asserting that “when we act, we create our own reality.”

People who worried that the administration was living in a fantasy world used to be dismissed as victims of “Bush derangement syndrome,” liberals driven mad by Mr. Bush’s success. Now, however, it’s a syndrome that has spread even to former loyal Bushies.

Yet while Mr. Bush no longer has many true believers, he still has plenty of enablers — people who understand the folly of his actions, but refuse to do anything to stop him.

In South Africa, the media and commentators have not often focused on the enablers who have made it possible for Presidnet Mbeki to get away with his flirtation with Aids denialism, for example. Yes, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang have rightly been vilified, but what about all the other cabinet ministers – including Trevor Manual, darling of the chattering classes – who at the height of the Aids debate refused the answer the question of whether HIV caused Aids. We forgave him because he cut our taxes.

And do we hear enough about Mbeki’s advisers who clearly do not always confront him with the hard facts needed to make clear headed decisions? In a way we are all President Mbeki’s enablers because we vote for his party and we treat him with respect because he is our head of state.

For those of us who are white, it may be even more difficult not to show respect because given our racist history, showing disrespect to the country’s leader may easily be interpreted as showing disrespect towards all black people.

I am often torn between an impulse to show respect for my President and all the good things he has done, and shouting at the rooftops at the dangerously arrogant and denialist actions of my President who may well have contributed to the death of hundreds of thousands of South Africans from Aids related illness.

If one keeps quiet, does one not merely act as an enabler to a dangerous man? If one shouts and screams, does one not merely align oneself with the white whiners yearning for the return to apartheid?

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