Khaya Dlanga

Is Zuma good for South Africa?

2011-12-08 07:36

Khaya Dlanga

When Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States, upon arriving in Washington, before his inauguration, he discovered that the papers were not kind to him at all. He took it all in his stride but his wife did not take kindly to what the papers said about her husband.

Instead of being ultra-sensitive about what the papers were saying about him, Honest Abe, as he was known, simply said, “The truth is, I suppose I am now public property”. I write about Zuma and his presidency because he is now public property.

We gave the president a clean slate when he took office. We would give him the benefit of the doubt. I believed then as I do now that it is wrong for people to wish him to fail as president. How could people hope that his presidency fails? That is short-sighted because if he fails, so does South Africa. We have to hope the best for our leaders. But to hope is not enough.

Not long after Zuma ascended to the presidency, Time magazine wrote the following about him in a cover story: “Jacob Zuma was supposed to spell disaster for his country. But his presidency has started well. Can he deliver on that promise?” It has been two years now. Would Time Magazine write the same story now? Two years on?

So far this presidency has delivered Schabir Shaik from the evil of prison. Shaik was convicted and incarcerated for corruption, a crime which the current president was heavily implicated in but never tried or convicted.

This presidency has also delivered the Special Investigative Unit to Judge Willem Heath, a friend of the president who helped in ensuring that the corruption charges against him were dropped. The laws were of course bent to ensure that the charges were dropped. We forget that the NPA used illegally obtained information to drop the charges against Jacob Zuma. A sitting president was illegally wiretapped. We still don’t know whether the tapes were doctored or not. The evidence was never tested in court, but was taken as gospel by the then NPA.

Let us not forget that Judge Willem Heath implied that then president Thabo Mbeki was behind the rape case against Zuma (for which he was acquitted) without an iota of evidence.

The Protection of Information Bill was passed by Parliament despite the misgivings many people have about it. Ironically, had the Bill been an Act of law during the Mbeki administration, Zuma would have had to face trial, not only for corruption, but also for having access to illegally obtained information.

It would appear as though Zuma is more interested in consolidating power than running the country. He has appointed cronies. He has made sure that the obstacle that is Julius Malema is removed from his path. We need the president to apply his mind in running the country. He seems to apply his mind very well when it comes to ensuring that he remains in power.

Just because the Information Bill may become law does not mean it’s just. Justice is not laws merely passed by Parliament. Allow me to quote from the good book on the issue of unjust laws: The book of Isaiah 10:1 – 2 says  
1 Woe to those who make unjust laws,
   to those who issue oppressive decrees,
2 to deprive the poor of their rights
   and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people

The Protection of Information Bill is unjust, and we believe that the Constitutional Court will vindicate us. However, it is not enough to simply have faith in the justice system; we have to make our voices heard.

If the court decides that the law is unconstitutional, it will be yet another setback for Zuma, who was told by the courts last week that he did not apply his mind when he appointed Menzi Simelane as head of National Director of Public Prosecutions. The president has some bad advisors around him, and they cause him to be humiliated before the courts time and time again. No wonder his advisors are now advising him to reconsider how the judiciary functions. They seem to forget that South Africa is a constitutional democracy, not an executive democracy. Therefore, the supremacy of the constitution must be maintained, and the independence of the judiciary.

We cannot profess to be a truly democratic country when the already powerful and privileged have added privileges before the law.

We must not allow our important institutions to be tampered with simply because they do not serve the purposes of the powerful. The Scorpions have already been dissolved at the whim of the powerful (again, the courts came to our rescue and said their dissolution was unconstitutional).

I would like to agree wholeheartedly with Desmond Tutu’s words when he said: “There are those of them who don’t actually recognise people who are basically on their side, who are critical, not because we want to see them fail. It is precisely the opposite. It is to say we want to see you succeed and that is why we mention these things...there are those who are becoming...I would say dangerously hypersensitive.”

We must choose the kind of future we want. We cannot allow politicians to dictate it for us. Too much blood was spilled to make this country what it is today. We cannot allow politicians to reverse the gains of democracy. Not whilst we still breathe.

Zuma could be better for the country if he chooses to. Right now he has not made that choice.

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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