Restrictive definitions of “maladministration” stymie the Rule of Law

The SA Gazettes are not being published, did you know?

The South African Government Gazette has not been published to the public on its usual and only electronic platform, the Government Printing Works, since around Saturday 2022/01/29. Its now Monday, 2022/02/08.

Attempts to access the site initially have resulted in browsers timing out, then reporting it “couldn’t connect to the configuration database”, then that the site could not be reached, and now it presents a blank screen other than a text box requiring a username and password. Oh, I see that now it says “An unexpected error has occurred”.

The impact on the Rule of Law

Can there be a failure of the powers that be which impacts more on the rule of law than a failure to publish Gazettes that contain the law, information what is being done in terms of the law, and what is required of the public under the law?

Without the Gazettes, the public are left totally in the dark, and creatures of statute are left unguided and free to do what they want outside the law.

The blackout

Despite the serious consequences of not publishing the Gazettes, there is a blackout silence out there on their current non-publication – no sign that the media, NGOs, professionals, academics, the public, various departments involved, the legal profession or indeed from the Government Printing Works itself, that there is even a problem.

Why the deafening silence about the non-publication of Gazettes?

Despite it being an issue fundamental to the rule of law in our corruption bedeviled RSA, my guess is that it is not newsworthy to the media. No blood and guts, no billions of Rand misappropriated. NGos to a man appear to define maladministration as that related to fraud and corruption and where is the corruption in not publishing the Gazettes? Not interested. Departments and their inhabitants don’t want the egg on their faces of admitting there is a problem, and besides they haven’t the skills, resources and expertise to fix the problem. Legal professionals simply go to expensive suppliers of Gazettes and laws, who miraculously are still receiving Gazettes via email. And the public are, as said, totally in the dark that others have been told of law that they have not been told about.

The failure of NGOs

I find the NGO attitudes most distressing: Obviously what interests them, and their adoption of a restrictive definition of “maladministration” is entirely up to them. But, I would have expected that there would be some recognition at least that focusing only on criminality like fraud and corruption does not deal with aspects of maladministration that do not involve criminality – such as incompetence, inefficiency, mismanagement, and so on – but which on all accounts of rationality, reason and logic just MUST facilitate and encourage the fraud and corruption they are so keen to resolve.

Is there anything more detrimental to the Rule of Law and democracy than non-publication of a country’s official Gazettes, along with the concomitant failure to publish the law, and the failure to let the public know its requirements of them, and the failure of provide opportunities for public participation in its development and its application.

I cant think of anything which transgresses basic principles of the Rule of Law more, and which would more quickly and more extensively trigger its breakdown as measured by instances of and levels of fraud and corruption.

But then, silence is golden, they say.

Here to from here?

Unless attention is paid to this, he answer is simple – banana republic.

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