Having tea with Zuma, is the question

int_lawby Johann Theron

Ivan Hoffman is an American lawyer that laments the emerging disrespect for law on his website. He says that people may be compliant, but do not show respect. Respect indicates (to him) that people would feel a higher sense of societal value-added by acting affirmatively in support of the law.

The ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) also finds it useful to “train” people to adhere and respect international human-rights law while they tend to the injured and homeless.

Then some Islamic blogger in Iran requests his readers to adhere to and respect the law – as long as it benefits the people i.e. Islamic law does, while Western law does not.

And as applicable to all United Nations countries, the UN itself supports the rule of law i.e. “Promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels is at the heart of the United Nations’ mission. Establishing respect for the rule of law is fundamental to achieving a durable peace in the aftermath of conflict, to the effective protection of human rights, and to sustained economic progress and development.”

In South Africa a certain JY Mokgoro (1997) tried in vain to equate Ubuntu to the highly acclaimed Constitution, as follows:

“Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity and (attempt to) demonstrate the irony that the absence of the values of ubuntu in society that people often lament about and attribute to the existence of the Constitution with its demands for respect for human rights when crime becomes rife, are the very same values that the Constitution in general and the Bill of Rights in particular aim to inculcate in our society.”

One summary at this point would be to acknowledge that a “higher” value is added by a lawful person and not just benefits to the individual such as “rights”. Perhaps the “rights” of the entire country including minorities and approved foreigners and religions are the value that society adds to individuals.  All this higher value requires is respect and not just compliance.

It appears that disrespect for the law is a common phenomenon. In South Africa this is evinced by people complying with the law, but embracing Ubuntu. Take the President of the country as an example, who has many wives and lots of children – legitimate or illegitimate is of no consequence – accommodated by the Ubuntu tribal thinking, while negating the Western values of the constitution.  That taxpayers foot the bill is seen as neither corrupt nor wrong. That the minority adding extra value to the country are ignored and trampled upon and subjected to extreme discrimination and even exclusion from public society is of no consequence.

There is simply no way that I (for one) can respect the rule of law in South Africa because there is no value added for me and my children. In fact I would turn down an invitation to tea (like the Iranian blogger with the Shah), with this president because he does not respect me.