The entire legal system is based on history but so is the world and everything inside it. There is an old saying that nothing is new under the sun and that is mostly true in law as well. Whenever something happens we go back in history to see what the courts decided and we know what they will decide now. That is how we judge your chances but a wise man will never say it is 80% or whatever. In law, you either win or lose and sometimes (seldom) you have a draw when you get an order of absolution of the instance. So your chances are always 50/50 which is terrible odds, rather settle.
Of course, it is a bit more technical than this and you need to understand your client more than what you need to understand the law. I had often stared at a client with a suitably serious face wondering what on earth he is talking about and the ones who watched Ally McBeal are the worst. They don’t get American law (I don’t either, don’t feel bad) and they sure as hell don’t get South African law (I do and Nigerian law) but they believe they do and want you to agree with their point of view. But this is part of life and not what bothers me today. There are ways of dealing with obnoxious clients that will not listen to reason. You simply show them the door admitting you are not as smart as they thought you were and you have peace to write a blog. You may even increase your fees on the spot to feel better about your failures in life. That is easy. No, what is getting me is the lack of knowledge about South Africa in general and in history.
I remember with a slight smile how my late wife was asked if I am white and if so, why am I in Africa? Well, there are a few million of us and we are born here and known as the Afrikaners. Before that we were known as “Boers” and not always admiringly either. In fact today, if you call a white South African a “boer” you may be up for hate speech even though the word directly translates to “farmer.” On the other hand it can also be a term of endearment with many referring to themselves as “boertjies” and I suppose it comes down to how you say it and in which context. That by the way is also a big deal in law. To read the law in context and not just grab something and try to apply it, it is I dare say like that everywhere and also in the Bible. You often find a peculiar person grabbing one verse and then sprout his stupid theories for everyone to get upset. There was a time when blasphemy was a crime in this country and there are many other countries where I would seriously advise you to keep your religious ideas to yourself. Especially in Muslim countries, say what you will, they don’t take non-believers and blasphemers lightly. Your liberal views will lead to a flogging or even death by stoning or whatever. You will regret your beliefs.
In history we learn that it repeats and nothing will change that. We will not learn though and we will carry on killing each other because we don’t learn and mostly don’t care either as only today is important to us. History is boring they say, it is the past and yet you practise it every single day. Yes, when you make breakfast for your wife or husband you remember (history) what they eat and how they like their eggs, sunny side up, scrambled, cooked or runny (yuck) and fried both sides. Yes, that is history, my friends. Every single time you remember what you did one minute ago, you are engaging in history. Even when shopping…my late wife (she was smarter than me by far) said to me once “K, we can get this cheaper at that other place and kindly keep quiet and let me negotiate” and yep, that was history in motion.
The lesson is that you cannot escape history and if you read any of my books you will read history. It is ironic that even history haters like the books so I did something right. Nonetheless, and this is damn important, history is subjective up to a point and you can choose rightly or wrongly to remember it like it pleases you. And there lies the reason why it repeats besides that most of us are boring people, all legal men are including me. I note however with some concern as I watch television programs on history that South Africa apparently was not a dominium together with Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Nope, whenever you hear a Pommy speaks with tears in his eyes of poor Britain standing alone in 1940 to 1941 they completely forgot the almost one hundred nations standing by them. How is this possible? Is the fellow plain stupid or is there more to it?
Do I need to remind him that Britain was never alone, it is a myth? Do I need to point out that the best fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain was a South African, Sailor Malan? Do I need to say that the few were really not so few and mostly not upper class hooligans from Oxford but normal working class lads? Do I need to say the production and availability of Spitfires actually increased during the battle? What about the Polish pilots who became very famous for valour and flying skills? And if we go to the Desert War in North Africa, what about the New Zealanders considered by Field Marshall Montgomery as the best infantry in the entire war. What about the Australians with their broad hats who would fight anything and everything and became famous at a place called Tobruk? What about the Indian Army? Poor old India, supplying men, food and a million pounds a day (every day) to support the war despite the fact that thousands of Indians died of starvation in Bengal I think. Winston Churchill, when told about it asked why Ghandi is then still alive. And yet, without the Indian Army the British would have been chased out of Egypt and Libya long before the Yanks came in with Operation Torch. I can carry on like this but what is worse these days is that South Africa is never even mentioned during these “documentaries.” Why is that? They talk of the other dominiums all the time. Perhaps it is a good thing. We had finally got rid of the English part of our history. We should be happy but I am not. Forgetting those men and their efforts is an insult and a calculated one.
I blame our wonderfully incompetent diplomats for this. Of course, you have to be sympathetic to them, their version of history started in 1994 and everything before that is bad and to be changed and if not changed then politely ignored. But you know what? Change what you want, the Springbucks (South African soldiers were known by that name in World War One, Two and Korea) were there, in France, East Africa, North Africa and Italy and many other places too fighting all the time. They will not be forgotten by the ignoramuses amongst us. Not as long as my books are read.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. During his police years, he was awarded the South African Police Medal for Combating Terrorism twice besides lesser awards. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a commercial law attorney for eight years. These days he is the owner of JKLS Africa and Associates, a specialist legal consultancy which specializes in reducing legal risk in sub Saharan Africa. He wrote several books on business, law, counter-terrorism and security issues. At times he is asked to participate on the Voice of America regarding legal forensic matters.