A matter of the law

2008-06-25 00:00

In papers filed in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday, and in yet another attempt to evade the “day in court” he once said he wanted, Jacob Zuma accused the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of having a “grim resolve” to prosecute him “irrespective of the facts and circumstances” and so prevent him from becoming president. Zuma was applying to have the NPA’s decisions to prosecute him in 2005 and 2007 declared invalid and unconstitutional, with the application to be heard on August 4, the designated starting date for his trial (with Thint) on charges of fraud, corruption, racketeering, tax evasion and money laundering. If the application fails, Zuma, who insists that his prosecution is driven by political motives, intends to make a second application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

In his quest for power, Zuma seems to have forgotten a number of the principles vital to any healthy democracy. The first is the separation of powers, with the judiciary independent of, and uninfluenced by, the executive. The second concerns the nature of the law and the legal process, and the fact that “the letter of the law” is no empty phrase: the law has its own clearly defined criteria, and cases may be won or lost on technicalities relating to proof, or otherwise, based on evidence presented to the judiciary. The third is the fact that in a true democracy nothing may be allowed to get in the way of the law — including the status of those brought before it: no one, not even the exalted president-in-waiting, is above the law.

What Zuma needs to realise, too, is that in a genuine democracy, those holding high public office are expected to be above reproach. Which means that the loftier the individual, the more intense must be the scrutiny upon him or her. This can be seen at work in mature democracies where the financial and other peccadilloes of senior politicians are constantly being ferreted out. Also, now that the identities of the U.S. presidential candidates are known, political opponents have begun intense investigation of their backgrounds, hoping to find something — anything — to besmirch the squeaky-clean image each is projecting. Of course there is a political element to the scrutiny of Zuma: that’s as it should be.

Finally, for Zuma to decry or feel aggrieved about the “grim resolve” of the NPA is a serious mistake. That grim resolve is what democrats require of their judicial system — a vigorous determination to seek the full facts of any case and to be seen publicly to have passed fair judgment on the basis of those facts. And one fact Zuma cannot argue away is that his former business partner, Schabir Shaik, was found guilty of corrupt activity involving him —an impeccable legal judgment later endorsed by the Constitutional Court.

The Zuma case will be a severe test of the validity and strength of South Africa’s democracy.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.