Thanks to an invitation from the University of Pretoria, I’ve been having fun teaching a law course to journalism honours students. Something we discussed is that legal documents are worth examining for possible stories beyond the issue in dispute.
For example, journalists should routinely check how long it took for a matter to be decided, since undue delays could be worth a story. We also looked at the list of parties’ legal representatives, counsel and attorneys, included at the end of judgments. In the past the media would often note these legal “appearances” so everyone accessing the story would know who the lawyers were, even if they didn’t see the original document.
The annual mining indaba, now on in Cape Town, has spawned massive documentation and media reports. Organisers of the indaba – “Where the world connects with African mining” – will have expected most of this publicity. But there’s one publication which may have been unanticipated: a new booklet by the Centre for Environmental Rights titled When mines break environmental laws: how to use criminal prosecution to enforce environmental rights.
The timing is no coincidence. The launch material for the booklet notes: “As has become the norm at the indaba, the massive environmental impacts of mining are relegated to a few discussions around ‘sustainability’. The problem of non-compliance with mining, environmental and water legislation in the mining industry is simply absent from the indaba programme, as are the communities and downstream towns affected by poor environmental management and non-compliance by mining companies, past and present.”
Strange this – a right-wing sympathiser and the former wife of an ANC cabinet minister may have become related through sheer chronological coincidence.
Just when it seemed that convicted drug dealer Sheryl Cwele, formerly married to Siyabonga Cwele, minister of state security, had exhausted all her legal options, it turns out that she might have a slight chance |of delaying – maybe even reducing – her sentence.
Sunday is Grandparents Day in the US. Strangely, even though we don’t mark the event, SA courts have seen a recent spate of cases involving grandparents. These cases deal with widely differing facts, but together they lead a reader to conclude that a grandparent’s role is far from clear.
Late last month the high court in Grahamstown heard a dispute concerning a woman whose son was born soon after her husband died in a car crash.
THIS whole week I’ve been hearing and writing about angry responses from sections of the legal profession to the government’s proposed Legal Practice Bill.
So it was something of a surprise when, on Tuesday, I was approached by organisations representing SA’s community advice offices and the paralegals working with them. They wanted to discuss their submissions to Parliament on the bill – the essence of which is that they are distressed to have been left out of its ambit.