– The public is used, for such politically motivated ideological intention –
The appointment of Judge Heath to the SIU is observed by some as a political strategy on the part of the president to secure his 2012-second term campaign. It is becoming clearer that often ideology and political positioning parade as analysis.
Let me in the beginning make it emphatic that I hold no brief for either the President nor a Judge Heath, mine is a response to what was put in public domain for consumption, debate, argument and internalization. Secondly I also have no personal vendetta against anyone for that would be simply silly. My challenge as I have advocated ad-nauseam by now is the issue of discourse and how it is shaped, coloured and used to shape public thinking, the same I challenge at times and seek to analyse also. I am not claiming to be unbiased in my thinking yet I am independent and share my views as my views only. I am not paid by anyone to share these my views and therefore share them liberally.
If we now may get back to the issue at hand. CASAC (The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution) said of the appointment “This appointment marks another step in the process of rewarding individuals who independence has been compromised, dating back to the appointment of Menzi Simelane as the national director of public prosecutions.”
Professor Steven Friedman as interviewed in the front page of today’s Star argues “Its an unfortunate appointment as it places a question mark and a cloud over the credibility of the SIU” He goes on to say “Because the person appointed is a close ally and an energetic supporter of the president, it is not unreasonable for the public to conclude that he has been appointed to that position for those reasons”
Let us now attempt to make sense of what Professor Friedman is saying. Firstly Friedman claims it an unfortunate appointment, what he is therefore saying is regardless to all sane reasons that could be advanced devoid of what he seeks to narrowly interpret as a close relationship, this appointment is unfortunate.
The question must be asked unfortunate because a Judge Heath is incompetent? Unfortunate because a Judge Heath lacks the skills and expertise notwithstanding the fact that he previously led the SIU? Unfortunate because he lacks the legal scrutiny and dignity having served the legal fraternity in an impeccable manner until his retirement? Unfortunate for he is disqualified to serve anywhere as a matured legal professional only because his former client is now President of South Africa? Or unfortunate by nuanced interpretation evanescent in the eyes of those whose eyes and ears are informed by a mind that necessarily wants to see ‘evil’ lurking anywhere.
The second issue I have resonates around the commonly used term called, ‘public’. It is my view that this term is used as and when by all with neither explanation nor definition. Friedman says the appointment “it is not unreasonable for the public to conclude that he has been appointed to that position for those reasons”. I am challenged with the definition of ‘public’ and shall ask that before I infer what this public constitutes Friedman be given space and time to explain his usage of ‘public’ in this sense.
Suffice to say, the public he might refer to may be a sector of the public who has arrogated a right to claim they speak or remonstrate on behalf of the public. Why is it that difficult for people like Friedman to say, “it would not be unreasonable for me as Friedman to conclude that he has been appointed to that position for those reasons”? To argue a constituency of public definition proves challenging for me for these views are Steven Friedman’s views, why drape it in public embrace. What political value is derived from such claim, in whose interest is such claim? As a Pastor, I have no right to say I speak on behalf of the Congregation unless it has given me a mandate to do so. Hence my question is from what mandate does Prof. Friedman invoke this public definition for his personal views?
I guess the case can be made that the elitists to defend their personal views use the masses. For the record the good Professor is absolutely entitled in a democratic SA to his views, even the sharing of such, all I plead for is to say these are Steven Friedman’s views and leave the public alone.
In the third instance, he argues Judge Heath is an “energetic supporter of the President” this by itself is a gross conflation of issues, the learned professor argues less informed by any empirical evidence but more by conjecture for he uses this to eventually argue his case that the appointment is linked to a political survival strategy of the president which he sees for 2012.
I shall argue that the claim of energetic supporter is an emotional opinion, which lacks corroboration. For even if the Judge as we all know did serve as a member of the president in a previous case, what makes the Judge a energetic supporter ? How do we ascertain such qualitative defensible material evidence for such claimed ‘energetic supporter” notion.
I also do not understand why a judge’s previous legal, professional and rightful defense of a client immaterial to who the client is and what the case may have been can serve as means to disqualify him or her for public office especially if he/she has served the public with distinction. For if that be the case I am not sure how many judges and legal professionals would be allowed to serve and make a living anywhere. This same argument one must concede hangs on the recent ad – hoc appointment of Adv. Michael Hulley, hence it could be assumed that a case is build in congruence of thinking that argues “jobs for pals’ notion as advanced by the CASAC claim.
Perhaps the more absurd argument in this ‘energetic supporter’ notion arises from the fact that anything associated with a democratically elected president is tainted with a form of proverbial evil and breathes suspicion. This notion is less informed by fact but is steered and driven in my books by a political ideology immanent in preference on the part of those who constitute public intellectuals. Friedman must tell us why he seeks to refuse to deal with the credentials, skills, expertise, and history of a Judge Heath as means to interpret such appointment. Why does he find it correct to prove soluble in this regard?
It is the same tendencies we saw with the appointment of the Justice Mogoeng, it appears that some want to encroach on the presidency’s right to appoint for these want to tell him who to appoint for he in their minds lack the capacity or discernment and is immured by a ethic of ‘corruption’ which informs his decision, leadership and presidency.
Lastly, Professor Friedman is quoted in the Star as saying “ There has been all sorts of pressure on Zuma to step down, not to make himself available (for re-election as party boss). I think he’s decided to go for it, he’s in campaign mode”. Again the learned public intellectual must tell us the sources for his conclusive claim of “all sorts of pressure”. What ANC legitimate structure, meeting has unequivocally exerted this pressure. If you ask if some were not happy with certain things of the ANC President, these have a right to such and it’s not a pressure but a very common thing in political organisations. I bet you if you interview some people now in the DA some will express a view of not being happy with Helen Zille or Lekota if he is still COPE Leader.
One cannot even use the Tri Partite Alliance and say they have exerted pressure, for the appointment of an ANC presidency is decided by ANC Branches who meet in an elective conference and exercise their constitutional franchise. In fact the noise after the public sector strike of 2010 has considerably gone down, for much of that had to do with the internal political dynamics of a COSATU in which personal political agendas are not foreign. I suppose Friedman is referring to the ANCYL economic march call for a Kgalema Motlanthe to lead. Even that though a call by some informed by their personal political ambitions – the same Friedman is on record for confirming – which we all know have been exposed cannot serve as a conclusive claim of “all sorts of pressure”. Friedman therefore must explain to us (those who read the his views as expressed in the Star) where he derives his conclusive claims of ‘all sorts of pressure on Zuma to step down and not to make himself available’ from.
The crafted golden thread of appointments exemplified in a Mac Maharaj, Michael Hulley and now a Judge Heath, simply do not make sense. For he dovetails this by saying “If Zuma felt insecure ahead of Mangaung there was ‘no problem’ in his appointing of Maharaj, his long time comrade, as his spokesman or his personal lawyer, Michael Hulley, as part-time presidential legal adviser, Friedman further said ‘But the head of the SIU does not work for the president, he works for us’.
He is correct to argue that the boss of the SIU works for us if us suggests the RSA citizenry, yet he is wrong for denying the president his constitutional right to appoint people as he deems fit. He is also wrong for interpreting the appointment in a myopic sense to be purely defined along ‘friendship for political survival” notion.
This ideologically informed ‘analysis’ does harm to the credibility of a Judge Heath not withstanding the fact that the honorable Judge had served without incident in his illustrious career which essentially could have been the reason why he received the nod. His sin is having defended a client. Can the case be made that every attorney who ever defended a criminal is not to be trusted? For neither the criminal claim nor the corruption contention holds in this appointment.
What one may deduce from the likes of CASAC and Steven Friedman is the veiled stated concept of corruption that is possible with a Judge Heath appointment, this if implied is an indictment to the President and Judge Heath for it is bereft of fact, lacking in substance and is in formed by utter conjecture. Yet this parades to shape readers thinking in a specific propaganda rhetoric of ideology draped in analysis
Does what Friedman and CASAC suggest truly constitute the only way to understand the appointment of the SIU boss, devoid of reason. Again I shall ask, why?
Bishop Clyde N.S Ramalaine
Independent Observer author of “Tradewinds are Blowing” (forthcoming) February 2012