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
17 April 2007

Zuma’s rejects court of public opinion

Jacob Zuma said today that he will not withdraw his multi-million Rand defamation case against several media outlets. Addressing the Cape Town Press Club, he complained

“You cannot tell me that the media has the right to take the place of judges, and actually try people and say, ‘This one is guilty.'” Zuma said he had gone to court, a judge looked at the facts before him and found him not guilty, but “you guys continued to find me guilty”.

I am not aware of anyone in the media pronouncing Mr Zuma guilty of a crime. He might still be convicted of fraud and corruption like his former financial advisor Shabir Shaik, but for now he is not a convicted criminal.

This does not mean that in the court of public opinion he cannot be judged by his actions and associations. Mr Zuma does not seem to understand that in a constitutional democracy the media has a right – no a duty – to be critical of politicians who behave like fools and charlatans. This in no way infringes on that politician’s constitutional right to be presumed innocent by a court of law.

We do not need a court to tell us that Mr Zuma should not be President. We know a person who takes money from a convicted crook and then does favours for him is bad news. We know that a man who exploits his position of power and influence to have sex with a vulnerable women – a daughter of a comrade – who is a third his age, is not worthy of our respect.

It has nothing to do with criminal guilt and everything to do with basic common sense. Now, if only Swelenzima Vavi and Blade Nzimande could get a common sense transplant and realize that they are hurting the progressive cause by their support for Mr Zuma, we might actually get an ANC President in December that we deserve.

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