What awaits?

2009-04-11 00:00

With the corruption charges now dropped, Jacob Zuma assuredly becomes president in waiting. And, as the tumult of the legal battle fades, it is time to make a sober assessment of the brand of leadership he will offer. There are grounds for concern. Suspicions about his propensity for tailoring his words to suit his audience have again surfaced with his extraordinary and divisive assertion that Afrikaners are the only true patriots among white South Africans. Even more disturbing is his outburst against the judiciary, questioning the supremacy of the Constitutional Court as the highest court in the land and criticising the judges who ruled against him in his court appearances.

Can these statements be shrugged aside as the off-the-cuff remarks of a generally amiable and empathetic leader who has not applied his mind to their deeper implications? Has he perhaps not yet fully engaged with his future role, or does he actually have only an indifferent grasp of democratic principle? Or, as Congress of the People spokesman Phillip Dexter has warned, are these chilling indications of a real threat to the country’s legal and democratic institutions that could pave the way for a dictatorship?

Zuma is not yet president, but he ought already to be conducting himself with the judicious balance and the respect for the Constitution expected of a democratic head of state. If these are signs of things to come, the nation may yet be thankful for the safeguards enshrined in the Constitution.

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