Glenister ruling a win for citizen SA

2011-03-19 12:44

President Jacob Zuma had just a few days earlier reassured South Africans that institutions ­supporting democracy were strong enough to make it ­unnecessary for citizens to go to the streets to demand fairness from their rulers when the Constitutional Court proved him right.

It was not the kind of situation where the ­president would have been proud of the ­prescience of the speech he had made at the ­African Ombudsman Research Centre at the ­University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.

In deciding in favour of Hugh Glenister’s ­contention that the disbandment of the Scorpions was unconstitutional, the court in effect ruled that, like justice, independence was not only to be assumed but seen to exist in the construction of a law enforcement agency specifically created to fight corruption and organised crime.

The judges therefore put the onus on the state to ensure that the state proved that the Hawks were ­independent of political meddling.
Evidence has been led to show that ­predecessors of the Hawks were susceptible to political ­interference.

But as the court ruled, this defect is not corrected by throwing the baby out with the bath water, as the ANC did by voting at its conference in Polokwane in 2007 to destroy what was by all accounts a successful ­anti-corruption and organised crime organisation.

The judgment must therefore be accepted as yet another reminder that the party should refrain from conflating itself with the state.

We are indeed reassured by the judgment that sheer numbers will not be enough to replace the constitutionalism as muster that must be met in enacting laws.

The challenge is now for the ANC to lead the line in defending the integrity of the court from those who will want to malign it ­because they do not like the judgment. Anything short of this will make President Zuma’s remarks ring hollow.

Credit must go to Hugh Glenister and his ­passionate drive to ensure that the underlying ­values of the constitution were not trampled on by political expediency and sheer power of ­numbers.

Many, if not all, South Africans had ­dismissed Glenister’s battle as a lost cause. He represents a dying species of individuals willing to risk loneliness and ridicule in pursuit of ­principle.

We can all learn a lot from his decision to campaign for what he believed was, and has subsequently been proved to be, right.

Regrettably and inevitably, Glenister’s skin ­colour and bank balance will come into the ­equation in debates that are certain to follow this judgment. But as President Zuma said of the ­Tunisian and Libyan uprisings:

“People want to participate in the affairs of their own countries. They want governments that represent their ­aspirations.” We agree.

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