David was editor of without prejudice from its inception in October 2001 until March 2011 when he relinquished the role. He also established DealMakers, sister publication to without prejudice and was publisher of both publications.
David started his working life with Anglo American in what was then Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. Between 1982 and 1992 he was, variously, a mining analyst and stock broker, banker and coal mine director. He entered the world of media as a columnist in 1992. His widely read Torque column appeared in Business Day four days a week until his sudden death.
Without prejudice remains true to his vision of editorial independence and integrity.
As this issue of without prejudice goes to print there is still no movement on the vexatious matter of the Constitutional Court's complaint against Cape Judge President John Hlophe. The Judicial Services Commission (JSC), which is charged, among other things, with safeguarding the reputation of the judiciary, appears mired in colossal indecision. Should the hearings be open to the public? Yes, indeed, say many practitioners and members of the public. No, says Hlophe. Besides which, Hlophe has now asked a High Court to rule that the Constitutional Court's actions against him are illegal anyway. There is more than a sniff of politicking in all this. The Constitutional Court's charge against Hlophe is, at bottom, that he attempted to persuade two of its members to view sympathetically applications which ANC president Jacob Zuma has brought before it. The Zuma camp vigorously denies any involvement – though his lawyer has written to the Chief Justice saying that his client (Zuma) views the row with concern because of how it may impact on his pleadings.
An article in the June issue of without prejudice dealt with the principle of the rule of law and the problems faced by the Judicial Services Commission and Cape Judge President John Hlophe (pp4-6). At bottom, the rule of law means that no-one is above the law, and that everyone is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. In the case of Zimbabwe, however, a country now on the verge of catapulting into horror, its former president Robert Mugabe has pronounced himself responsible to no-one other than God. This presumes God is the slightest bit concerned with him.
It is said that it's always darkest before dawn. If this means the long night of our discontent is drawing to a close, it is fervently to be embraced. We have had a terrible time of it recently. The country has had to grapple with a litany of unprecedented disasters. The farrago that is Eskom has produced a withering assault on its management by the regulator; rolling load-shedding has sent companies reeling in dismay, notably those involved in mining and manufacturing.
I have had cause to be really alarmed in recent weeks. With the world shifting uneasily onto treacherous financial sands, and our sad northern neighbour no nearer the long-expected and much deferred Promised Land, the armed robbery of the Johannesburg High Court on April 13 was the icing on a poisoned cake.
These are serious times. Very few will escape the impact of the financial and economic problems that have originated in the United States but whose reach has been global to the degree to which international banks and institutions have pursued the apparently “easy" money to be made from dubious, American-grown and widely peddled, instruments. The fall-out has been huge and encompassing.
Amid the litany of problems facing the country are some that we need like a hole in the head. Blessed with what is arguably the finest climate and weather conditions in the world, the outdoor life has long been a South African constant, irrespective of colour. Sport is a major ingredient in the national psyche, football, boxing and athletics among blacks, cricket and rugby among whites (with large overlaps, of course).
Among the problems invariably attached to the creation of new institutions intended to plug a perceived gap in the work of an existing organisation is that of turf wars. This happens everywhere; it certainly isn't unique to this country. In America, turf wars between security institutions bedevilled their work – hence the creation of a supposedly overseeing mother hen in the shape of its Homeland Security department. In the UK, arguments over ownership rights to information are common between MI5, MI6 and the Police Special Branch.
In the first note I wrote this year (wp Feb), the main theme was the judiciary, the court system and the lack of honour and dignity among judges. It has gone on like this for the entire year. Not that the tendency to attack the independence of the judiciary is confined to South Africa – it is a trend all too easily visible in Asia and other parts of Africa.
Few of us would not have been saddened and alarmed at the saga surrounding Cape judge-president John Hlophe. It has gone on for months and, despite the controversial decision arrived at by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), seems as far from a satisfactory resolution as ever.
A couple of curious events took place over the last month. The first was when the tiresome Health Minister Manto Tshabalala- Msimang took on the Sunday Times in a case that ended up in a one-all draw. The second was the suspension by President Thabo Mbeki of Vusi Pikoli, the National Director of Public Prosecutions, an action that, predictably, seized the legal community by the scruff of the neck and attracted international attention.
I think every law-abiding South African is thoroughly fed up with the apparently endless waves of crime that engulf the country. Gauteng has been likened, with good cause, to a war zone. It may be that some forms of crime are reducing, as the SA Police Service claims, but the sheer scale of the continuing deluge is positively scary.
A judge of the Johannesburg High Court called me last week and, at the end of our conversation, said he hoped I would keep open this window to let in fresh air and let out good ideas. But all I have had recently is legal air redolent with those occasional and very nasty smells I understand drift into Johannesburg from Sasol's various upwind operations.
Is it true that pretty soon it will no longer be possible to assure foreign investors and their legal representatives that swift entry to SA's courts is guaranteed, and that the judicial system is on a sound footing? This was a view expressed to me during a private conversation with a senior attorney, a man who has practised in this country for nearly four decades.
India's march to super economic giant status is attracting increasing attention. Some years ago, when it was still making profits and flying high, SwissAir shifted its accounting centre out of Zurich in favour of Bombay (Mumbai). India's reputation as a favoured Information Technology centre is beyond dispute – Accenture has shifted its largest centre out of the USA to the subcontinent.
I have harboured doubts about the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the manner in which it goes about its business ever since it was first established. Nor have I hidden my disquiet. On the contrary, I have written critically about its activities on any number of occasions.
For decades, the underpinning philosophy of this country's constitution was the supremacy of the state. Individual rights were effectively subordinated to the needs of the state, and the state's wishes were considered paramount. In theory, all that changed when the new democratic dispensation was introduced. The new constitution, labelled as among the most enlightened and liberal anywhere, put the individual at the centre of national life. Individual rights are set out in a Bill and are considered sacrosanct.
Private Equity has become quite something in recent months.As a contributor observes in this issue, it is hardly possible these days to open a newspaper without falling over news of yet another takeover deal in which the buyer is a consortium constructed by one or other of the major PE companies.
One way or another “the law," meaning the judiciary and the police, has become a major topic of conversation – mostly for all the wrong reasons. A quick look at events in the past few weeks produces a litany of matters, so many that the selection of what to highlight is akin to taking a stab at a darts board.