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
12 April 2011

The Good Book leads the way, Halleluja!

The Ministerial Handbook is a wonderful document, the Good Book of modern day South African politics. Forget about the Constitution or “irrelevant” legislation dealing with Minister’s Portfolio’s: the first thing some Ministers seem to do when they get appointed is to study the Good Book to justify their lavish lifestyles – funded by every single South African who has ever bought anything at a shop and paid VAT on that product.  What the Bible is to the average Priest, the Ministerial Handbook is to many a Minister – a guiding light and a moral compass in a time of darkness and despair.

Halleluja and amen!

Pity some of our Ministers who justify their splurges with reference to the Ministerial Handbook do not understand its contents. Either that or they are deliberately trying to mislead the public by claiming that the Good Book actually sanctions their millionaire lifestyles when it does nothing of the sort. The Good Book is – on closer inspection – a rather Calvinist document. Pity  so many  Ministers do not seem to be great fans of frugality, temperance and moderation – all values promoted by the Calvinists.

Take Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka, who is reported to have lived it up after being appointed by President Jacob Zuma (who seems to be having some real bad luck with his appointments, poor guy). Shiceka is alleged to have spent the following amounts after becoming Minister:

  • R335000 flying first class with his personal assistant and staying in a five-star hotel to visit his girlfriend in prison in Switzerland. Asked what the purpose of the official visit was, Shiceka claimed he had gone to “benefit from the Swiss experience of hosting the World Cup” – which the country did in 1954. Switzerland co-hosted Euro 2008, which ended on June 29, long before Shiceka’s visit.
  • Another R32000 to hire a chauffeur-driven limo for the prison visit;
  • R640 000 in one year for Shiceka and a handful of staff to stay at the One & Only – of which, he admits, R280 000 was spent on him alone;
  • R55793 for a one-night stay at the One & Only during President Jacob Zuma’s first State of the Nation address, justifying taking a sangoma with him by saying the man was his “father figure”; and
  • More than R160000 in eight months flying 10 family members – including his estranged wife and current girlfriend – around the country at taxpayers’ expense.

The Minister is contesting some of these allegations (although his story seems a bit confusing), claiming that the evidence has been fabricated. Yet he has admitted that he had gone to Switzerland and to racking up a bill of R280 000 for his own accommodation at the One & Only in just one year, and to putting up at the same hotel a man he describes as his “father figure”, as well as his wife, justifying this expense by claiming that it is a perk that the Ministerial Handbook allows for it.

Oh, beloved brothers and sisters, let us turn to the Good Book for guidance in these dark times. Brothers and sisters, the Good book is remarkably clear on foreign travel and, let’s face it, does not justify the Minister’s jaunt to Switzerland. It states that:

  • Ministers and Deputy Ministers should approach the President in writing, two weeks in advance of a planned official visit abroad, to request approval for the intended visit and the appointment of an Acting Minister.
  • Ministers and Deputy Ministers may travel on official visits abroad if these are essential, in the national interest and with due regard to the availability of Departmental funds.
  • International visits should offer real value and benefit to the Republic of South Africa (RSA), in that: the status and importance of the people with whom appointments are made are on a par with the visiting Member and have special merit for the RSA; the  institutions visited or the matters investigated have not received adequate attention in the recent past during previous visits by Members or officials; the countries visited are of real importance to the RSA; the value offered by good media coverage has been taken into account; the merits of invitations to address organisations, groups, etc. have been fully ascertained.
  • In view of the official duties of Members in the Republic, the extent and duration of visits abroad should be limited to the absolutely essential.

This means that President Jacob Zuma should have given permission for this trip. If he did not give permission for the trip as required, this would mean that the Minister had flagrantly flouted the Ministerial Handbook and that President Zuma has no option but to fire him or appear to be condoning the corrupt practices of one of  his Ministers. If he did give permission, he gave permission for an illicit trip that does not by any stretch of the imagination comply with the provisions of the Ministerial Handbook and this would mean that he endorsed the flagrant abuse of state resources by one of his Ministers.

The Presidency therefore needs to inform us whether he gave permission for this illegal trip and if he did, why he flagrantly flouted the rules set out in the Ministerial Handbook. The President – as much as the Minister – should be held accountable for this jaunt by the Minister to go and visit his drug trafficking girlfriend in a prison in Switzerland.

The Good Book also has some interesting text verses relating to long stays in hyper luxury Hotels. Pity the Minister was too busy pining for his mistress langiushing in a Swiss jail to pay attention.  The Good Book states that when Ministers are newly appointed they may need time to settle in and then as an exceptional measure may stay in a Hotel when they are in Pretoria or Cape Town.

If, owing to exceptional circumstances, a State-owned residence is not immediately available for Members upon assumption of duty of office, expenses in connection with alternative accommodation may be debited to the State until an official residence becomes available.

Members may occupy, for official purposes, one State-owned residence, in the capital of their choice, free of charge. If available, Members may occupy a second State-owned residence in the other capital, for official purposes. In this event a monthly market related rental is payable. No allowance is payable to Members who prefer not to utilise a State-owned residence for official purposes at the seat of office. Where official residences (private or State-owned) are kept in both Cape Town and Pretoria, no subsistence allowance is payable for official journeys between Cape Town and Pretoria.

The stays in the One & Only Hotel, with or without a “father figure” in tow, (which cost us over R600 000) were therefore not sanctioned by the Ministerial Handbook – no matter what the Minister claims now. The Minister was therefore in effect stealing money from each and every South African who pays taxes via personal income tax or via VAT.

President Zuma has two options. He can ask the Minister to resign, which might indicate that he is at least slightly worried about the venal abuse of state resources by his friends and colleagues (even if he does not wish the same rules and standards to apply to him). Or he can do nothing, in which case we will all known that he endorses this kind of theft from ordinary citizens. This will not reflect well on his integrity and his stature as President of our country. Some of us might even start to wonder why he never got his day in court and what might have happened if he had not escaped prosecution for taking bribes from a convicted crook and then doing favours for that crook.

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