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Lindiwe Sisulu fires another salvo in war of words — but did she copy speech by former UK attorney-general?

Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu has fired another missive in response to widespread criticism of an article she penned raising concerns about the constitution and the judiciary.

And her latest salvo prominently features parts of a September 2013 speech by former UK attorney-general Dominic Grieve.

The piece published on Wednesday was shared with TimesLIVE by her spokesperson, Steven Motale who was adamant the minister did not plagiarise any of it.

In her latest article, Sisulu also responds to ANC veteran Mavuso Msimang who accused her of an “extraordinary attack on SA's constitution”.

She accused Msimang of “proceeding from his factionalist position and viewing every analysis of the rule of law and criticism that does not accord with his myopic and jaundiced perspective as an attack on the constitution”.

That is the hallmark of intellectual laziness,” she wrote.

She then penned a portion that bears a close resemblance to parts of the speech made by Grieve.

The similar section reads:

In 2010, one of the United Kingdom's most distinguished jurists in the past 100 years, Lord 'Tom' Bingham, published the seminal work The Rule of Law. He looked at what exactly is meant by the rule of law and identified the core principle of the rule of law as being: that all people and authorities within the state, whether public or private, should be bound by and entitled to the benefit of laws publicly and prospectively promulgated and publicly administered in the courts.

He outlined eight principles that he saw as the key ingredients necessary to support that aim. In brief, these were:

— The law must be accessible, intelligible, clear, and predictable.

— Questions of legal right and liability should ordinarily be resolved by the exercise of the law and not the exercise of discretion.

— Laws should apply equally to all.

— Ministers and public officials must exercise the powers conferred in good faith, fairly, for the purposes for which they were conferred — reasonably and without exceeding the limits of such powers.

— The law must afford adequate protection of fundamental human rights.

— The state must provide a way of resolving disputes which the parties cannot themselves resolve.

— The adjudicative procedures provided by the state should be fair.

— The rule of law requires compliance by the state with its obligations in international as well as national laws.

By observing these eight principles, and in particular affording adequate protection of fundamental human rights, our society can ensure that we avoid the dilemma posed by those using the “rule of law” rhetoric to cover up oppression and injustice.

That is the point made by Prof Joseph Raz in his 1979 work The Authority of Law. Raz argued that, seemingly, within the framework of the rule of law, societies can exist that oppress minorities, condone slavery, and support sexual inequalities — all of which would be abhorrent to genuine democracies.

Yet, by adhering to strict legal structures and procedures, such societies could still legitimately claim to excel in their conformity to the rule of law. Such a legal system will allow discrimination and prejudice but all the time within the legal construct of decrees and legislation.

Absent protection for human rights, courts and the legal system may deprive fellow citizens of their freedom, property, and ultimately their very existence. In such circumstances, the claim that the rule of law is observed is a mockery of truth.

Motale on Wednesday night gave an assurance that the minister had not plagiarised anything in her latest salvo in the war of words.

“Minister Sisulu cited the author, the source, the specific piece and date of publication or court ruling instance. This is the exact opposite of plagiarism,” he said.



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