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Thread: Separation of powers?

  1. #1
    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Separation of powers?

    "The government, under the leadership of President Mbeki, remains committed to the doctrine of the separation of powers," Maseko said, "and finds the intimation that suspending the NDPP undermines this doctrine unjustified, misleading and amounts to an extreme exaggeration."

    Full article on M&G Online
    I just don't understand this.

    I struggle to see how the ability of a single person (the president in this case) to suspend the head of the NPA is okay. Let's paint a scenario....

    Assume that Jacob Zuma became the next president, and the corruption case had still not been closed (unlikely, but just work with me here). Let's say that they managed to get a warrant for his arrest. President Zuma hears of this, and suspends the head of the NPA. This buys him time to kill any evidence against him, or appoint someone sympathetic.

    How can this be seen as "separation of powers"?
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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Different countries have different political models. But the President is pretty much untouchable in most countries.

    Presidents also tend to come with pretty strong powers to appoint, suspend and dismiss - although there is some level of accountability to parliament or the equivalent body in "free societies."

    The real issue is not the extent of Presidential power in matters such as these; it is the judicious (or not) use of the option that determines the character of governance.

    In this respect, spokespersons can issue all the statements they like - the evidence is in the actions of the President.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    The real issue is not the extent of Presidential power in matters such as these; it is the judicious (or not) use of the option that determines the character of governance.
    100% agreed.

    I think my issue is that I just don't know what they mean when they say, "...committed to the doctrine of the separation of powers," and how this relates to this incident.

    I've heard of an understand (I think) the concept in relation to the separation of the government and the judiciary — is this what they are referring to, or something else?
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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsd View Post
    I've heard of an understand (I think) the concept in relation to the separation of the government and the judiciary — is this what they are referring to, or something else?
    Or paraphrased - the legislative and judicial processes. Yes, I think so.

    The challenge is that the top positions are assigned by the legislative powers.
    And in this instance the legislature appears to have effectively meddled with a judicial process by excercising its power of appointment (or removal from office).

    I guess spokepersons can be accused of leaving out the ultimate caveat when making these statements on principle - which in this case would be

    ...remains committed to the doctrine of the separation of powers (except where it proves inconvenient).

    That caveat explains the change from equal opportunity to equity too, and perhaps a few other dilutions of ideal principle.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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