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
8 December 2011

Thabo Mbeki responds to allegations by Willem heath

Statement from the office of former president Thabo Mbeki regarding the City Press interview with Advocate Willem Heath

The office of former president Thabo Mbeki has noted Advocate Willem Heath’s interview in the City Press newspaper’s edition of December 4, 2011 in which he makes defamatory and malicious allegations against the former President.

Among others, Advocate Heath alleges that “during his tenure …as President of the Republic”, the former president “abused his position to compromise the criminal justice system by blocking some investigations into corrupt practices and ‘initiated’ the corruption and rape charges preferred against President Jacob Zuma by the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions”.

Former president Mbeki categorically rejects all the allegations Advocate Heath has made. They are devoid of all truth.

The allegations made by Advocate Heath are very grave, more so because they are made by the Head of the Special Investigation Unit, a critical organ of our criminal justice system and suggest illegal conduct on the part of a former head of state and government.

Although Advocate Heath, a former judge, does not seem to have much regard for the decisions of the courts (including the Constitutional Court) except those with which he agrees, it is worth emphasising that the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) found no basis in the allegation of political interference on the part of former president Mbeki and the then Cabinet in the corruption case of President Zuma.

Among other things, the SCA said that “the allegations (of political interference) were … irrelevant … gratuitous and based on suspicion and not on fact”.

The legal representative of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation has today formally approached government to provide evidence of all the allegations made by Advocate Heath.

The office of former president Thabo Mbeki also notes comments attributed to President Zuma about Advocate Heath insofar as they may relate to the latter’s comments on the former president.

In the past, former president Mbeki has drawn attention to the use of fabrications to advance particular political agendas and to divert attention from the pressing challenges of the day.

If our broad leadership at all levels of society do not address this tendency, it may become an indelible part of our political culture and make it impossible for our country to address the real challenges we face.

Since his retirement, former president Mbeki has avoided commenting on domestic politics. It is with great reluctance that he is now being forced to comment on Adv. Heath’s allegations.

» Issued by the office of former president Thabo Mbeki, Johannesburg, December 8 2011

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