Mixed signals

2008-09-11 00:00

In same week as his next appearance in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma has affirmed, in an address to students at the University of Johannesburg, his commitment to “a free and independent judiciary that should operate without fear or favour”. This, he said, does not mean that the judiciary is beyond criticism, yet it is “the final arbitrator of disputes”.

A key problem is that Zuma does not rebuke the firebrands and call them to order. He refuses to acknowledge that the South African judiciary is currently under adverse attack. What he said in Johannesburg was that if such a situation should arise, “we must step back and reflect and be like sportspeople shaking hands after a gruelling duel”. Such generalisations fall on deaf ears when the context is one of vigorous singing of his trademark song Umshini wam (my machine). It is high time that Zuma called for a moratorium on any rendering of that inflammatory song which belonged to the struggle era and is hardly appropriate in the present democratic order. He cannot be a responsible potential head of state and at the same time pursue a dangerous populist role.

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