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Grieve-ous act? Lindiwe Sisulu’s latest tirade against critic ‘plagiarised’ speech by former UK attorney general

Grieve-ous act? Lindiwe Sisulu’s latest tirade against critic ‘plagiarised’ speech by former UK attorney general
Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. (Photo: Flickr / GCIS)

Clapping back at critics on Wednesday, Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s latest opinion piece contains extracts from a 2013 speech by a former UK attorney general.

The controversy around Cabinet minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s recent opinion pieces has been further fuelled by claims that she plagiarised portions of her latest op-ed from a speech by former UK attorney general Dominic Grieve.

This op-ed is the second Sisulu has published on IOL within a fortnight, giving credence to the notion that the minister is seeking to raise her public profile in advance of a challenge for the ANC presidency at the party’s electoral conference at the end of the year. 

The minister’s latest op-ed comes in response to widespread criticism of her controversial piece in which she “attacked” the judiciary, prompting a rebuke from Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, on Wednesday. The column also drew criticism from prominent civil society groups and ANC veteran Mavuso Msimang. 

Her most recent lengthy column on IOL, headlined “Sisulu hits back at Mavuso Msimang”, is a roughly 2,800-word retaliation to an op-ed by Msimang on Daily Maverick. Significant portions of the column appear to have been lifted from a speech by Grieve, as identified by social media users including Financial Times Southern African  correspondent, Joseph Cotterill and writer Palesa Morudu Rosenberg on Twitter. 

Although her spokesperson has denied that Sisulu’s conduct technically meets the definition of plagiarism, it appears clear that the minister borrowed portions of her op-ed without adequate attribution. 

A September 2013 speech by Grieve, titled “The rule of law and the prosecutor”, contains stark similarities and, in some instances, identical phrasing to passages from Sisulu’s column. Both Sisulu and Grieve refer to distinguished British jurist, Lord Tom Bingham.  

Of Lord Bingham, Sisulu says: “In 2010, one of the United Kingdom’s most distinguished jurists in the last hundred years, Lord ‘Tom’ Bingham, published the seminal work ‘The Rule of Law’. 

Lord Bingham looked at what exactly is meant by the rule of law and identified the core principle of the rule of law as being: that all persons and authorities within the state, whether public or private, should be bound by and entitled to the benefit of laws publicly and prospectively promulgated and publicly administered in the courts.

While Sisulu credits Bingham’s The Rule of Law, she does not credit Grieve. 

Yet her words are, for the most part, identical to Grieve’s, who says in his speech: “In 2010, one of the United Kingdom’s most distinguished jurists in the last hundred years, Lord ‘Tom’ Bingham, published the seminal work ‘The Rule of Law’ (I suspect we will hear more about the thoughts of Lord Bingham as the conference progresses!).

Lord Bingham’s book built upon an academic paper which he had delivered four years earlier in 2006 and in which he had looked at what exactly is meant by the rule of law.

In his 2010 book Lord Bingham identified the core principle of the rule of law as being: ‘that all persons and authorities within the state, whether public or private, should be bound by and entitled to the benefit of laws publicly and prospectively promulgated and publicly administered in the courts.’”

Grieve then refers to Bingham’s “eight principles which he saw as being the key ingredients necessary to support that aim”. Sisulu does the same, brazenly copying Grieve’s speech word-for-word. 

The stark plagiarism in Sisulu’s op-ed occurs again, when she refers to Professor Joseph Raz and his 1979 work The Authority of Law.

Sisulu writes: “Professor Raz argued that, seemingly, within the framework of the rule of law, societies can exist that oppress minorities, condone slavery, and support sexual inequalities – all of which would be abhorrent to genuine democracies.

Yet, by adhering to strict legal structures and procedures, such societies could still legitimately claim to excel in their conformity to the rule of law. Such a legal system will allow discrimination and prejudice but all the time within the legal construct of decrees and legislation.

Absent protection for human rights, courts and the legal system may deprive fellow citizens of their freedom, property, and ultimately their very existence. In such circumstances, the claim that the rule of law is observed is a mockery of truth.

On Raz, Grieve says: “Professor Raz argued that, seemingly, within the framework of the rule of law, there can exist societies which oppress minorities, condone slavery, and support sexual inequalities – all of which would be abhorrent to liberal democracies. And yet, by adhering to strict legal structures and procedures such societies could still legitimately claim to excel in their conformity to the rule of law.

Such a legal system will allow discrimination and prejudice but all the time within the legal construct of decrees and legislation. Absent protection for human rights, courts and legal system may deprive fellow citizens of their freedom, property and ultimately their very existence. In such circumstances, the claim that the rule of law is observed is but a mockery of the truth.

Sisulu’s spokesperson, Steven Motale, was adamant that the minister did not plagiarise anything in her latest tirade against critics. 

He said: “Plagiarism is when a person, in writing something, uses the words and thoughts of someone else without giving credit to the original author. Minister Sisulu cited the author, the source, the specific piece and date of publication or court ruling instance. This is the exact opposite of plagiarism.”

Motale’s claims are untrue. At no point does Sisulu mention Grieve or his speech. 

Motale added: “Whoever makes this charge is either incredibly stupid or incredibly desperate to smear the minister. He or she is a scandal. Go read the ‘plagiarism declaration’ every university student must sign for every paper they write. This is completely ridiculous.” DM

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  • Desmond McLeod says:

    After 20 years of being a minister in the ANC’s cabinet, never bothering about the plight of the poor and marginalized. Turning a blind eye (at best) to all the theft and plundering undertaken by her colleagues – monies stolen that could have – should have been used to uplift the poor, she is now, when the ANC is being rocked to the core, suddenly “the champion” of the poor! How incredibly dishonest and contemptable – a disgrace to her proud, honourable forefathers!

  • Marlina Elburg says:

    Classic plagiarism, and would certainly be considered plagiarism in a university context.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    “Motale added: “Whoever makes this charge is either incredibly stupid or incredibly desperate to smear the minister. He or she is a scandal.” perhaps Mr Motale should look at the three fingers pointing at himself. the same plagiarism declaration he refers to states that extracting from others work must be credited. the evidence is there for all to see. Anyhow no one needs to smear the Minister – she is doing a great job on her own!

  • JOHN TOWNSEND says:

    Not doing anything for Tourism – Maybe she can be Minister of Justice! Useless at anything she touches. Close your eyes and imagine RSA with her as President…what a nightmare

  • Kim Webster says:

    To the Editor. To clap 👏 means to applaud so this English is below par. Yes there is an Afrikaans colloquial term “klap” used in which case both spelling and quote annotations would seem appropriate. Quality does mean Quality DM

    • Elmarie De Bruin says:

      🙄

    • Anthony Burman says:

      No, I’ve just looked it up and I quote, not plagiarise, from Google, from Merriam-Webster, [this is exhausting..]: “‘a quick, sharp, and effective response to criticism,’ Not to be confused with a garden-variety diss, a clapback is deemed by most as a targeted, often viciously acute comeback intended to place someone in much-needed check.— Aaron Edwards and Ira Madison III.” So I guess ‘clapping back’ is spot on.

  • Johan Buys says:

    I’d hate to be the advisor that wrote that piece for her (R1.9m salary not worth the inevitable clap-slap-klap down)

  • Joe Soap says:

    The ANC is the classic alcoholic, self-centred and in denial. Only when the ANC admits the ANC is the problem can it be cured. Looks like Lindiwe has hit rock bottom.

  • Lou Pretorius says:

    Does she have any advisors, and if yes, should they not be fired? What she does get right is to get her name in the press, but unfortunately it is not flattering at all. If she is vying for votes come the end of the year, who is her target market?

    • Alley Cat says:

      Target market is all (the few and diminishing) readers of Iqbal’s media empire. Sadly, they will lap it up and will not read DM or M&G as such publications tell a truth that they prefer not to hear.

  • Geoff Young says:

    I’m curious – what do you think a South African cabinet minister has to do to get fired by Cyril:
    1. Loudly promote incoherent, undemocratic and plagiarised ideologies that oppose the ANC’s core values and principles?
    2. Achieve a ministerial job performance score of zero?
    3. Foment or orchestrate a violent, murderous insurrection against the state?
    4. Headbutt the President in the face?

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