Manto versus The Sunday Times … round 2

It occurred to me on Friday night that it would have been a good idea to be in court on Friday morning when the Minister’s lawyers and The Sunday Times’ lawyers argued the matter in the High Court before Judge Mahomed Jajbhay on Friday. The reports of the arguments were interesting, although incomplete (there doesn’t seem to have been much more than a superficial coverage of the arguments presented in Court by the larger media companies) because of the different lines they took. Manto’s lawyers argued that parts of The Sunday Times’ papers pertaining to her Botswana experiences should be struck out as “scandalous, vexatious and irrelevant” (affidavits should not contain allegations which cross this line and can be struck out of they do) and further that The Sunday Times crossed the line in its attack on the Minister. The articles about the Minister’s antics were described as part of a vendetta against the Minister.

The Sunday Times’ counsel argued that the reports were in the public interest and that the freedom of expression ought to take precedence over the Minister’s right to privacy. There are often conflicts between competing rights and even where there are rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights involved, the competing interests are weighed up having regard to certain principles set out in the Limitations clause of the Bill of Rights which provides as follows:

Limitations clause.png

In the meantime the Minister has refused to step down and has asked why she should.

Brought to you by: The Times Multimedia

I am sure that evidence supporting The Sunday Times’ allegations will emerge during the next set of proceedings against The Sunday Times. This application is unlikely to be the end of the story and I expect to see Manto sue The Sunday Times for defamation in due course and that is when the evidence against her will be tested.

In theory this matter could precipitate a crisis in government because it opens the door to possible votes of no confidence in Manto and even the President is he is incapable of handling this matter properly. In practice it is unlikely because a majority vote is required and it is improbable that the ANC majority would take such action against its senior leadership, short of a coup against the President. This is one of the challenges presented by such an overwhelming majority of the National Assembly being controlled by a single party and a feature of our democracy. It is also unlikely to change in the foreseeable future because of the ANC’s support base. This is why it is so important to have a national executive that actively seeks to act as fairly as possible and in the public interest. If Manto escapes from this scandal unscathed where there is clear evidence of her misconduct and unsuitability to be a Minister in our government it will mean that we don’t have a government that truly acts in the public interest and rather one that serves its own desires.

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Maybe our ministers don’t understand what a Constitutional democracy is?

I wrote about our Communications Minister’s effort to establish more direct control over the appointment of councillors to ICASA which is supposed to be an independent body protected from interference by the Constitution almost a year ago. The problem was (and remains) that the Minister was/is intent on interfering with the governance of ICASA and the regulation of the industry as a whole by ensuring that her appointees were appointed to ICASA’s board. ICASA is meant to regulate the broadcasting and telecommunications industries in South Africa, including Telkom, one of the government’s cash cows.

ITWeb has just reported that an ad hoc parliamentary committee has determined that the nomination process introduced by the Minister ought to be reviewed as it potentially undermines ICASA’s credibility and has recommended that, for one thing, the President approve appointments on the recommendation of the National Assembly instead of the Minister effectively giving herself carte blanche to appoint her preferred candidates to the ICASA board.

It occurred to me that perhaps our ministers simply don’t understand how to conduct themselves in a Constitutional democracy and this is why some of them keep coming up with schemes like this to establish virtual fiefdoms over people and institutions falling within their jurisdiction. After all, many of our government officials were educated and trained by the former Soviet Union and other socialist nations (in fact, the powerful labour movement itself is still heavily influenced by socialist thought). It wouldn’t surprise me if these individuals hadn’t quite embraced the mindset required to govern in a Constitutional democracy where the interests of the electorate take precedence over their own and that there are limits to their authority for good reasons.

Just a thought.

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Our Health Minister a “drunk and a thief”

This last week’s legal proceedings against The Sunday Times were probably worth the hassle and the cost. I have just read the paper’s article which labels our Health Minister a “drunk and a thief” and recounts how she was kicked out of Botswana in the 1970s for repeatedly stealing from patients in the Athlone Hospital in Botswana where she was a medical superintendant and how she has been violating liver transplant protocol by continuing to drink alcohol after she received a rare liver recently. Her own liver was reportedly damaged by “auto-immune hepatitis” and it has since been revealed that our Minister was an “alcoholic” and had the standard selection process been applied in this case, she would not have been given the liver she ultimately received. There is more in the article itself.

My question, again, is whether Manto should remain our Health Minister if these allegations are true as The Sunday Times contends? The President has publicly backed her and her reputation and I wonder if the prudent course of action isn’t to at least investigate the allegations and make a determination whether she ought to continue to lead South African health policy when she herself flouts it?

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Lawyers sue for “excessive” fees

One of my clients forwarded this story to me. It is quite scary to think that someone could be charged over R400 000 for what he is informed is a relatively “simple” divorce process. Irrespective of whether these fees are excessive in the circumstances (they certainly seem like a lot!), this case is a good example of why it is so important for attorneys to explain their fee structure up front and for clients to make sure they understand the fee structure and what the costs could be.

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Money for jam at JB’s in Hyde Park

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now. I have had a couple breakfasts at JB’s in Hyde Park and they were pretty good. My current favourite is the Mediterranean breakfast (I think that is the name – it had eggs, mushrooms, haloumi cheese, grilled tomato and toast) and it is very tasty. The mushrooms that came with the last breakfast I had were fantastic! All was well until I started noticing this on my bill at the end of my meal:

JBs slip

Notice the R2 charge for the jam I asked for to accompany my toast? WTF?! That irks me! And the jam they gave me wasn’t exactly huge. Used sparingly it could take care of a slice of toast, maybe a slice and a half if I spread it really thinly:

The jam that cost R2 at JB's

This just seems to be absurd to me. Why charge R2 for a tiny tub of jam where the bill comes to considerably more. That is just rude!

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