A significant week for the judiciary this, with the death of former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson and, a few days later, of Judge Andrew Wilson, who headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) amnesty committee.
Following widespread coverage of the many tributes to Chaskalson, few people will be unaware of the role he played in South Africa’s legal and political life.
When Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel spoke in The Hague earlier this month, some people might have wondered why he bothered. Addressing a high-level meeting at the seat of the International Criminal Court (ICC), he assured the rest of the world that South Africa fully supported the ICC and the laws that set it up.
If you are considering a bit of graft and corruption, here’s a little free advice – try it in South Africa rather than Namibia. Some recent decisions by our neighbour’s Supreme Court make it clear that those judges know how to dish it out when dishonesty’s discovered.
Let’s take this month’s most juicy case, one that will have local MPs crossing themselves with relief that, in the Zuma era, our standards of propriety are pretty low.
Pity these lawyers: they are so fed up with judges delaying more than 10 years before delivering decisions that they have drafted a new law to put things right. Top of the draft there’s this explanation: “In the wake of widespread public concern about the delay of judgments from the high court and the supreme court, the Law Reform and Development Commission engaged in consultation with members of the judiciary and the legal profession about possible remedies to this problem.”
We’re talking here about our neighbours in Namibia, where the problem of delays by most judges, with the chief justice among the worst offenders, has become a national scandal. It’s been excruciatingly difficult for the legal profession to deal with the problem and many of its members have chosen furious silence rather than speaking out, since they fear provoking hostility from the judges concerned.