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)
16 March 2008

Zuma’s Mauritian trip revisted

The Mail & Guardian reports that the Mauritian prime minister, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, has denied being asked by Jacob Zuma to “intervene” in the African National Congress (ANC) president’s legal fracas on the Indian Ocean island.

No, he didn’t ask me to assist him in his case. We can’t assist him, even had he asked. He came to see me, to call on me when he was here in Mauritius to say, just to tell me … what he was doing, that he wanted to challenge in court and I explained to him that in Mauritius we have a very independent judiciary, that he has to go through the court system and the courts will decide; nothing more than that.

This seems to suggest that my previous post about Mr Zuma’s trip might have been unfair. But when questioned about what prompted Ramgoolam’s comment to the Financial Times that “we don’t intervene”, his director of communication, Dan Callikan, said that Zuma “evoked his judicial problems” and Ramgoolam explained the Mauritian legal system to him.

So Mr Zuma did “evoke” his legal problems but did not directly ask for help. It is unclear why he would evoke his legal problems with the prime minister unless he was hoping that the prime minister might be of some use for him in this legal dealings. The prime minister obviously understood it that way otherwise he would not have felt the need to explain to Mr Zuma that he could not interfere.

At the very least Mr Zuma raised the legal problems with the prime minister and thus placed the prime minister in the difficult position of having to explain that he could not interfere. This is still inappropriate. If I were to bump into the Rector at a party and “evoke” my application for a promotion, it would be improper of me because I would at least subtly trying to gain an unfair and illegal advantage over others.

So, maybe my initial post was not so unfair to Mr Zuma after all but I am sure the good readers of this Blog will correct me if I am wrong.

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