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
22 March 2007

Wanted: Biko not Mbeki

As is often the case these days, Xolela Mangcu delivers a thoughful column for Business Day. His take on President Thabo Mbeki and his missives on racism is particularly acute.

I have often wondered what gives President Thabo Mbeki special access to the experience of racism — access those of us who lived under the apartheid regime all those dark years somehow seem never to have had. Race has such a privileged space in the president’s thinking that no ordinary personal experience has any autonomy. The irony of this apparent radicalism is that black experience is always explained in terms of white experience. In this over-racialised framework, HIV/AIDS does not have any autonomy — it is white people who see black people as “germ carriers”.

In the same way, corruption does not have any autonomy — it is a figment of white people’s imagination. Crime does not have any autonomy — it is white people fixated on black people as the “swart gevaar”.

Ouch! Mangcu seems to be saying that President Mbeki needs to read a bit more of the work of Steve Biko so that he can free himself from the internalised racial oppression and can learn to be free from always having to worry about what white people think. I suspect the implied criticism at Mbeki for not having lived in South Africa also has a double importance because it is exactly a person who lived most of his life as part of a racial minority in the UK who would continue to obsess about the racism of whites.

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