Respecting the office of the South African Human Right's Commission
The Minister of Police's response to the Human Rights Commission's findings and remedial order in the case of Mr Chumani Maxwele (the jogger who is alleged to have given President Zuma's motorcade ‘the finger') is misplaced and has no standing in law. The HRC found that the Special Protection Unit had violated several of Mr Maxwele's rights and called on the Minister, on behalf of the members involved, to apologise to Mr Maxwele and to take steps to ensure that the SAPS acts in terms of the Constitution and the Law.
Reacting to the HRC's findings, the Minister's spokesman claimed that because Mr Maxwele had instituted civil proceedings against the SAPS the sub judice rule applied. The SAPS had accordingly refused to participate in the investigation and would not abide by the HRC's ruling.
The sub judice rule was created to prevent people from commenting on a case where such comments would prejudice the outcome of the case in any way. Historically it was invoked whenever there was any risk of prejudice to a fair trial, regardless of how speculative. However, in the matter of Midi Television v The Director of Public Prosecutions, a full bench of the Supreme Court of Appeal effectively put an end to the rule.
Emphasising the importance of freedom of expression, the Court developed an extremely strict test as to when the sub judice rule can be invoked. The court found that it would only be applicable if a substantial and real prejudice to the administration of justice would occur as a result of the communication and the prejudice could not be prevented from occurring by any other means.
The complaint which was filled with the South African Human Rights Commission involved the violation of Mr Maxwele's constitutionally guaranteed rights to human dignity, to freedom and security of the person, to privacy, to freedom of expression and peaceful/unarmed demonstration, to make political choices and to certain rights as a detained person.