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)
8 February 2007

Xolela Mangcu nails it

Xolela Mangcu hits the nail on the head today in his column in Business Day regarding the FNB saga. I like his idea that we are all afraid of our freedom. Money quote:

We are a paranoid society — afraid of each other, afraid of the name-calling, afraid of losing business, afraid of our own shadows, and afraid of our own freedom.

This will not change for as long as the fundamentals of fear and intolerance are in place. Today it is FNB, and tomorrow it will be somebody else. The bottom line is that those who rule over us do not trust us or respect us enough to let us make up our own minds. Let FNB publish what they will, and trust us to decide whether to go along with it or not. That is the true meaning of freedom.

Of course President Mbeki and the intellectuals in his circle would argue that we do have much to be afraid of because in order to truly transform the state and society, we need to address and attack the hegemonic power of the old guard. Because the reactionary ideas and values of this old guard still hold sway and dictates public discourse to the detriment of true transformation, we ignore it and allow it to flourish at our peril.

Like Mr Mangcu I believe this is an unecessary defensive position to take. In a democracy we cannot by fiat change the balance of forces in society. We have to engage and argue with one another.

If one is the President of a powerful governing party one has a lot of scope to make an impact. But in a democracy one does not get one’s way all the time – even if one is the President.

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