Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mechanics of Justice: Form and Substance

One can only wonder what the South African public are thinking when issues such as the one around PigSpotter come about. Of more concern to me though is what the government itself is thinking.

Without repeating the content of Mistry's excellent article on Wonkie, the function of government in any country is to serve and protect its citizens. And it is necessarily this underlying intention that needs to drive the justice system. So in the case of PigSpotter, a twitter account that basically warns the public of speed traps, road blocks and other traffic disruptions, the question remains: does the public ultimately benefit? And certainly I believe they do. If the goal of the traffic authority is to ensure people drive prudently especially in high accident risk areas, then certainly PigSpotter is aiding the cause. In fact rather than reprimand him, the government should probably be hiring him to continue with the same job.

Unfortunately that is not the case and the authorities are trying to legally gun the rogue public reporter down. Is it that the traffic department is motivated primarily by the revenue generation opportunity that speeding fines represent? And is it possible that PigSpotter is seen as merely reducing this revenue stream? Quite possibly so.

Another argument is of course that the rule of law needs to be followed objectively and without discretion if corruption is to be kept at bay. Is it ok to warn the public about speed cameras and also crime check roadblocks? Clearly both of those are not the same. The latter certainly does defeat the ends of justice and the public should quite rightly be willing to bear the inconvenience of those delays.. particularly given their regular whinge about crime.

In the end, the point is that the substance of the law - not the form of it - should be the deciding factor in whether the action is just or not. So in the PigSpotter case, the authorities should catch PigSpotter because he is breaking the law. Upon judgement though, he should be found not guilty only for the disclosure of the speed trap locations and guilty for defeating the ends of justice with respect to disclosing roadblock locations.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I miss Africa

The fact that I'm sitting out here in the freezing cold in the middle of nowhere apparently doing some good and charitable work is unfortunately little consolation to me right now. I miss Africa and I miss it dearly.

Not that there aren't creature comforts in Canada (yes, there are - even out here in rural North America). In fact you can barely even feel the cold given you don't often wander around aimlessly in the street at subzero temperatures. What I miss most of all is the people.

People here admittedly are warm and friendly despite the harsh climate. But there's a certain colloquilism missing, for lack of a better term. It's a different kind of warmth I have struggled to find outside the developing world. I miss feeling relaxed and able to speak my own language... any of them actually besides English - and actually have people understand me and the expressions I use.

Sigh - I guess I am entitled to whine and rant once in a while on my blog instead of just discussing issues that really matter. For once I can say though that I miss home - the diversity, the sense of humour, the stinky taxis and even the crime. Some real issues to deal with instead of the intellectual ones debated in the first world - i.e. whether we should be calling policemen policemen or police people... grrr..

I really do miss writing on the South Africa news too - have barely had the time to cover anything on Wonkie recently, let alone the executive coaching articles I promised I would mug up for friends after my last post on personal development. Still, it's just a few weeks more before I'm back to the motherland - I rarely say this about going home but I cannot wait this time! I miss Africa!