Zuma judgment

2009-04-04 00:00

Writing on this page yesterday, African National Congress provincial chairperson Dr Zweli Mkhize explained this party’s choice of Jacob Zuma as its president, describing him as an honest and caring person, committed to helping those less fortunate than himself. Earlier in the week, struggle stalwart and Nobel peace laureate Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu gave his reasons for not wanting Zuma as the country’s next president. There should be no political solution to the charges against Zuma, said Tutu. If he is innocent, let it be a court of law that says so.

The Zuma case has put the country between the proverbial rock and hard place. Drop the charges, and the state will have the embarrassment of a president with an indelibly stained reputation. The judicial system will be seen to have wilted in the face of sustained political pressure. The impression that the political elite have placed themselves above the law will be reinforced. But the people will have a hugely popular leader who, for all his weaknesses, will champion their struggle for dignity. Press the charges forward, perhaps to conviction, the rule of law may have held firm but that champion could be lost, others brought down with him, and the whole nation destabilised.

Both courses have their benefits and their costs. A charitable view might be that Zuma’s alleged transgressions are symptomatic of poor judgment that is understandable when long-oppressed people accede to power. If so, let it be hoped that the lesson has been learnt.

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