Quote of the week

As seductive as certain perspectives of international law may appear to those who disagree with the outcome of the interpretative exercise conducted by this Court in the contempt judgment, sight must not be lost of the proper place of international law, especially in respect of an application for rescission. The approach that my Brother adopts may be apposite in the context of an appeal, where a court is enjoined to consider whether the court a quo erred in its interpretation of the law. Although it should be clear by now, I shall repeat it once more: this is not an appeal, for this Court’s orders are not appealable. I am deeply concerned that seeking to rely on articles of the ICCPR as a basis for rescission constitutes nothing more than sophistry.

Khampepe J
Zuma v Secretary of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector Including Organs of State and Others (CCT 52/21) [2021] ZACC 28 (17 September 2021)
20 June 2007

Unlikeable Mr. Roberts fit to write a biography?

I bought Ronald Suresh Roberts’ biography of President Thabo Mbeki today. Called Fit to Govern: The Native Intelligence of Thabo Mbeki, the book contains a spirited defence of Mbeki and even more spirited or even vituperative attacks on many of Mbeki’s (and Roberts’) critics.

I am very much looking forward to read the book because I am rather confident it won’t be boring. It would be refreshing to read another view on Mbeki and to see how successful Roberts is in defending some of Mbeki’s most controversial (and in my opinion disastrous) policies, such as the HIV/AIDS fiasco.

I am not a great fan of Mr. Roberts and have written on this Blog about his unfortunate defamation case, but I suspect he is correct when he predicts that the liberal white establishment is going to pull the book to pieces for all the wrong reasons.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance aligned James Myburg has already weighed in with a kind of review or debunking of the book in his Moneyweb column. He reminds us that Essop Pahad lied to Parliament when he denied that the Presidency facilitated a R1.5 million grant from Absa Bank for Roberts to write the book.

Myburg conclude his “review” as follows:

One oddity of the book is that very little of it is taken up with documenting and elucidating Mbeki’s own views, which do not seem to be of particular interest to the author. It is divided instead between “a theoretical dogfight in ideological outer space” (as Rian Malan put it) and vindictive attacks on Mbeki’s critics and opponents. At one stage Roberts writes (p. 125) that The Discourses by Niccolò Machiavelli’s are what really “illuminates Mbeki’s statesmanship.” Yet, in that work Machiavelli advised:

I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy; but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.

“It is the duty”, Machiavelli continued, “of every good general or chief of a republic, to use all proper means to prevent such insults and reproaches from being indulged in by citizens or soldiers.” This is advice the presidency has clearly chosen to ignore. By supporting this project, in the way that they did, the presidency were clearly hoping to buttress Mbeki’s position, both morally and politically. Yet they may find that this book – which manages to direct “harsh sarcasms” against so many different people – has precisely the opposite effect intended.

After reading more of the book, I will weigh in with my own two cents worth. I suspect the book will become the talk of the town and that many words will be written about it. Sadly, I am not so sure much of it will be interesting or relevant. Let’s see.

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