OR weeks now Scrutator has been searching for the appropriate words to describe the bitter seniority fights between Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla and Court of Appeal president Justice Michael Ramodibedi.
She pondered on using the word “petty”.
The word “silly” also came to her mind.
Then as she was taking a shower yesterday morning words started streaming into her mind: pathetic, tosh, crap, kindergarten, childish, trivial, misdirected, irresponsible, frivolous, ridiculous and embarrassing.
Comprehend this properly for Scrutator is talking about the fight and not the honourable judges (if you twist those words then it’s your own funeral).
For the sake of decorum, something she has been accused of lacking in huge quantities, Scrutator will settle only for four words from that heavy dozen.
The squabble between the two is ridiculous, misdirected, childish and pathetic.
Do I see some people going agog at that characterisation of this embarrassing fiasco?
Do I hear pretentious opinion prefects calling on the authorities to charge Scrutator with contempt of court?
Well, today is “easter” and Scrutator’s sin will be forgiven if at all her opinion constitutes a sin.
So listen very carefully because Scrutator will probably never say this again.
The quarrel is “ridiculous” because it is un-judge-like to fight over mundane protocol matters that add zilch to the proper administration of the courts and the delivery of justice.
It is bizarre for two of the country’s most senior judges to hate each other’s wits over a rank that comes with no substantial responsibility apart from the sensation of stroking one’s ego.
The fight is “misdirected” because instead of squabbling over hollow protocol ranks they should be concentrating on the mess that is already overflowing in our judiciary.
The High Court is drowning in a backlog of cases.
The courts are underfunded and at times even too broke to do basic things like paying allowances for witnesses in murder cases.
Sometimes judges have to pound the High Court corridors endlessly to get paper, cartridges and pens.
It’s a mission to get toilet paper at the High Court.
When the judges are not hunting for basic tools they are busy praying that cars don’t break down because the High Court has made it clear that if their cars are taken for repair they will have to use the yellow bellied jalopies called four-plus-ones.
Magistrates, judges’ clerks and assistant registrars are a bitter lot over their meagre salaries.
They are miserable.
As for the support staff let’s just say it’s a miracle that none has died of hunger.
Yet their bosses seem to think all these issues are less essential than their fight over whose name is called first at state shindigs.
If that is not being misdirected then Scrutator will mop Maqalika Dam until she has been called yonder.
If anyone can prove that pursuing rats when your house is burning is a prudent decision then Scrutator will humbly swallow her words.
If anyone can prove to Scrutator that a father who buys a broom when his family is starving is smart then she will take back her words.
ntil then, let’s move on to the crèche part of this battlefield that is occupied by two of the most respected and revered legal minds in this country.
Scrutator last saw such petty fights when she was in kindergarten in Mafube.
You know the kind of playground fights that don’t need much to trigger them except two little tummies full of papa and moroho.
They go like this: Little John brags that his father has longer hands than Thabo’s father.
Thabo immediately jumps up and accuses John of lying because his father’s hands are definitely longer.
John gets livid and proposes a quick fight to settle the matter.
And a few kicks, bites, scratches and screams later the matter is solved amidst wild cheers from other little souls.
There is sweet victory and bitter defeat but none changes the fact that the length of anyone’s father’s hands was not an issue worth fighting for in the first place.
The same story applies in this I-am-bigger-than-you battle between the respected judges.
Whether you are acknowledged first, second or last at state functions it really doesn’t change the quality of this country’s justice delivery system.
It certainly doesn’t change the fact that there are people who have been awaiting trial for the past 10 years.
Neither does it bring justice to those whose rights have been violated.
This fight is not a bad fight per se. No. It is simply a wrong fight with wrong opponents. The opponents are simply too big for such a brawl.
In nursery schools such fights are justified because those kids are still too young to know better.
Judges certainly know better.
It is beyond Scrutator’s comprehension why any learned judge of high integrity would feel degraded because his name has been mentioned at a wrong time at a state function.
Can someone hand Scrutator a hankie. This embarrassment brings her nothing but sorrow and tear-inducing shame.
This girl from Qacha demands a few moments to shed some tears. Mop, mop, mop jo ’na ’m`e oe!
was about to describe the pathetic nature of this fight when I was overwhelmed by tears.
But worry not dear reader for I have recollected myself.
Pathetic was my last word, wasn’t it? Phew! It boggles the mind why two learned men at the high echelons of such a critical arm of government would concentrate on winning such pyrrhic victories.
This whole fight takes their focus from the real issues at stake.
They should invest their energies on quickening the wheels of justice in this country.
Those wheels have long been painfully slow but they are just about to grind to a halt if the most senior judges insist on tussling over non-issues.
Together, they must fight for more resources from the treasury.
This wrestling match over who is bigger than who only undermines the integrity of the judiciary.
It erodes public confidence in the judiciary.
If the two most senior judges in this country cannot see eye to eye over mere protocol niceties, which are a prerogative of the executive, then how will they deal with real issues under their jurisdictions?
What really irritates Scrutator is that instead of playing itself out only in the corridors of the Palace of Justice this wrestling match over rank has been exported.
The first international fight between the judges was in Uganda where it ended 0-0.
Lesotho, as a nation, was not a player in that match but it came out the loser.
Our reputation suffered when our two senior judges decided that they just had to show the rest of jurists from southern Africa how badly they detest each other.
I know that I initially said I would choose only four words from that heavy dozen.
Well, this is my column and I can amend it as I wish: The fight between the two judges is indeed pathetic, childish, trivial, misdirected, irresponsible, frivolous, ridiculous and embarrassing.
If you think those words are not enough then use that which you put in your bin to describe it.
or years Scrutator had thought that Fikile Mbalula was one of those few student leaders who had successfully graduated from student politics into mainstream national politics.
But alas, the garrulous minister is clearly stuck in that youthful habit associated with student politics – recklessness.
Scrutator is disappointed that Mbalula appears determined to press the self-destruct button.
Last weekend the papers were awash with juicy details of Mbalula’s steamy sex sessions in upmarket hotels in the “City of Gold”, allegations which have not been denied.
To his credit the man has owned up to his shenanigans, and has begged for forgiveness.
But Scrutator is still at a loss as to why such a bearded, grown-up man with a beautiful wife and a ministerial post that comes with all the trappings of power would risk it all by playing Russian roulette with his life.
But didn’t our ancestors say men are like dogs? You give them meaty bones for dinner but if they see some piece of human waste, they also eat.
On a serious note though, it is clear that the South African government has a fight on its hands if it is to win that battle against that big disease with a small name.
When a government minister sleeps around, forget the long yarn about the condom breaking, then it is clear the anti-Aids message is simply not reaching home.
Those three letters — ABC — abstain, be faithful and condomise, appear to mean very little to some of these powerful men who think the best they can do is to chase every moving thing in a skirt.
But then who can blame the young minister, he is learning from the man at the top.
Remember the shower story.