Letters to the Editor: June 15 to 21

Crisis: Opposition supporters protest in Kinshasha. South Africans must support democracy in the DRC, a reader writes. (John Wessels/AFP)

Crisis: Opposition supporters protest in Kinshasha. South Africans must support democracy in the DRC, a reader writes. (John Wessels/AFP)

Labour court judge is meticulous and fair

I was both sad and shocked to read about the negativity in “Judge faces labour case probe” (June 8) and, in particular, the accusations against a competent, reliable and senior labour court judge, Anton Steenkamp.

I have been practising labour law for almost 35 years and I have known Steenkamp for most of my career. He is not only highly esteemed and competent but is probably one of the most even-handed and meticulous judges in the country.

Although I have lost some cases when Steenkamp has presided, I have always been impressed by and in awe of the judgments he delivered.

My experience has shown me that Steenkamp not only reads every single word placed in front of him but also fully understands the nature and meaning of each piece of evidence placed before the court.

The nature of litigation is that there is normally extreme unhappiness on one side. This extreme unhappiness often translates into an attack on the judge concerned.
It is human nature for litigants to want to blame someone or other.

Often, they blame their legal representatives but in some cases they try to place the blame at the door of the adjudicator.

In this instance, clearly the recalcitrant and almost vexatious litigant is looking to place his blame somewhere and has conveniently chosen the judge. It is both unfair and wrong in this situation.

What we do know is that the complainant seems to believe that documentation was placed in the court file but ignored by the judge.

We also know from the judge that he had checked with his assistant, his associate and the registrar’s office, all of whom said that there were no submissions. This meticulous approach by Steenkamp can be admired and applauded. Normally judges would look in their file, see no response and take it that the litigant chose not to respond.

My experience with Steenkamp is that he does check very carefully to see whether all the papers have found their way into the file. The experience from just about all the attorneys and advocates in the labour field is that Steenkamp is always available and is extremely even-handed.

Unfortunately, the heading and the contents of the article create an impression in the public mind that there is smoke and therefore there must be fire. I am merely penning this letter to indicate that Steenkamp should be given a fair chance in that his history has been completely beyond reproach and there was no reason in this case to be any different. — Michael Bagraim, Johannesburg

SA, pay heed to the DRC

It is surprising to note that the civic, social and political movements and faith-based movements in South Africa do not pay as much attention to the crisis of demo-

cracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo as they do to the plight of the Palestinian situation, the Rohingya people in Myanmar and others with whom most South Africans, correctly, pledge solidarity.

Yet the DRC is one place whose rich natural resources have become a curse to its people.

The DRC’s natural wealth has attracted several imperialist forces to work in cahoots with the kleptocratic comprador bourgeoisie to loot the country. This has been done to enrich the few and produce tyrannical governments, bloody wars, civil strife, and the impoverishment and displacement of the peasants and proletariat of the DRC.

One does not need a doctorate in political science to see the hand of imperialism and capitalist greed behind the political and economic woes of the DRC.

One would expect radical nationalists, Africanists, anarchists, socialists, progressive social democrats, communists and feminists in South Africa to be at the forefront of putting the crisis in the DRC at the top of the agenda of those committed to political, social, economic, gender and environmental justice. One would also expect that South Africa would have the most active DRC advocacy group in the world. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

One can only hope that, with time, organisations such as the ANC, the South African Communist Party, trade union federations Cosatu and the South African Federation of Trade Unions, the Economic Freedom Fighters, the Azanian People’s Organisation, the Pan Africanist Congress, Black First Land First, the Azanian section of the Fourth International and the Black Consciousness Movement will take resolutions related to bringing democracy, peace and stability to the DRC.

One also hopes that the literary, visual and performing artists in South Africa will use their work to raise awareness among South Africans and the peoples of the world about the situation in the DRC. — Mphutlane wa Bofelo

Let’s fight cell masts together

Have you been affected by a cellphone mast? If not, you soon will be.

I have first-hand experience of how flawed the cellphone mast application process is. The system is a sham and the odds are stacked against citizens. Cellphone companies use their huge resources to fight drawn-out legal battles until the objectors are too exhausted to continue.

The health concerns related to cell masts are fobbed off. This is because the World Health Organisation relies on the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, a cellphone industry-loyal nongovernmental organisation, to decide on the harm from electromagnetic fields.

They are more interested in shielding the industry from criticism than they are with the health of citizens. They make the claim that “there is no research that proves any known adverse health effect” — and cellphone companies simply repeat this mantra. This is despite many scientists warning that their research proves the opposite.

We need to fight this collectively and share expertise. As a large enough group, we can influence and hold our elected officials to account. If you share my concerns, please visit naacm.co.za and register. — Derek Main, cofounder of the National Alliance Against Cell Masts