Friday, November 21, 2003

Astonishingly, the Hefer Commission has degenerated yet further. A tearful Mo Shaik today told the Commission that 'he would be happy to concede he had been wrong about Ngcuka, as long as he could be shown to be wrong' and, crptically, 'if you cannot prove the null hypothesis, then the corollary applies.' But this, as I don't need to tell you, is nonsense. One of the most fundamental principles of the law of evidence is that the person making the allegation bears the burden of proof. In other words, Shaik cannot make an allegation and expect it to be upheld if he isn't proved wrong; he must produce the goods. At least Mac was honest; Shaik's obfuscation is just laughable. My only regret is that, being out of the country, I'm not able to watch this stuff on TV. It must make for good viewing.

There is, however, a more serious point. The Hefer Commission has cost a huge sum of money which, in a cash-strapped country, is no laughing matter. Furthermore, as Andrew has pointed out below, its distracted us from the main issue, namely, whether corruption was perpetrated or not. Intuitively, I feel that Maharaj and Shaik shouldn't be allowed to get away with such irresponsible behaviour, but I'm less sure that anything will be done. I'm pretty sure that Ngcuka would have a case for defamation, but I'm less sure that he'd want to press one. That would appear vindictive and he no doubt has more important things to worry about. In most countries the reputations of Maharaj and Shaik would, of course, be ruined. But South Africa has an odd tendency to take disgraced individuals to heart -- witness the cricket team's defiant fondness of Hansie Cronje, and the invincible, if not enhanced, popularity of Winnie Mandela, Allan Boesak and Jacob Zuma. If anything, being the downtrodden underdog seems to evoke a type of identification on the part of most of the populace. Let's just say that I don't think we've heard the last of this strange duo yet.

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