Zuma must go, but he has rights too

2017-10-29 05:55
President Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma

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A sober analysis of arguments made before a full Bench of the Pretoria High Court in the state capture review application by President Jacob Zuma points to a ruling in favour of the president.

Prospects of such a ruling will surely not delight the multitude of Zuma’s detractors who relish spirits of Schadenfreude every time he bites the dust in court.

Compelling Zuma to appoint a commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture risks judicial overreach and must be resisted. And, however satiating the temptation, engaging in judicial voyeurism and populism will not contribute to the development and strengthening of our constitutional democracy.

There exists a myriad legislative and constitutional instruments should it be deemed necessary to remedy executive excesses or inaction. Depriving Zuma of his right to challenge the remedial action contemplated in the Public Protector’s report, including the constitutionally entrenched powers vested in his office, should not even remotely be considered such instruments. Let me explain.

At the risk of rehashing the obvious, our number one citizen hasn’t clothed himself in glory. In this regard, he continues to confound both friends and foes as he emerges from one scandal after another with apparent political dexterity.

Loathed by many, Zuma’s flirtations with South Africa’s criminal justice system predate his presidency. He has faced criminal charges ranging from rape to vice and anything in between.

Although there is plenty we can accuse Zuma of, one thing he can never stand accused of is loyalty.

He has, over the years, proved to be bereft of not only integrity but loyalty to his friends and comrades.

A litany of victims of his Machiavellian ways include erstwhile ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, shafted Cosatu’s Zwelinzima Vavi and, lately, ex-higher education minister Blade Nzimande. These individuals rank among Zuma’s former staunch defenders, with Malema once vowing to “kill or die” for him.

Over the years Zuma has confounded both comrades within his ANC party and opposition elements who have clamoured for his ouster as he has overcome the many challenges he has faced. It is, therefore, quite easy to understand why, each time he approaches the courts, even in instances where he is legally entitled to, Zuma elicits almost universal derision from his detractors.

We should, however, be mindful of the inherent danger of expecting the courts to deny Zuma, with whom many may disagree and who many despise, his rights.

It matters not whether he, like his proxy and son Duduzane Zuma, is likeable or not, whether he is a constitutional delinquent or not, or captured or not. To act otherwise would ensure a travesty of justice ensues.

Lest we forget, section 84(2)(f) of the Constitution entrusts the president with the power to appoint commissions of inquiry. It is only upon his exercise of this power, or omission to exercise same, without regard for rationality, that aggrieved parties can challenge him through the courts.

Whereas it would be plain folly for anyone to hazard a guess as to how the justices will rule, it seems highly unlikely that Jacob Zuma’s application would not succeed.

A nuanced judgment would, while affirming his constitutionally entrenched right to appoint judicial commissions of inquiry, order that Zuma be sensitive to his complicity in matters to be traversed by said commission of inquiry. A reasonable and rational expectation would thus be for Zuma to, through his own volition, request the Chief Justice to step in and appoint a commissioner, including setting terms of reference for such a commission.

As closing arguments evolved, it became evident that the respondents in this matter may have acted with misplaced alacrity, since Zuma had already registered his intention to apply for a review.

It bears reminding that the Absa report, through which the Public Protector similarly sought to dictate to the National Assembly, was invalidated at its instance. It is thus inconceivable that the court would now contradict itself.

Whichever way the court decides, it was a marvel to watch legal titans duelling in what will surely be a landmark case whose outcome will enrich South Africa’s jurisprudence.

Let it be made clear that Zuma cannot evade justice for ever. Any thoughts of inserting a sympathetic successor to him, with an expectation that he may be granted a pardon or reprieve out of political expediency, will surely fail.

But, as for how long Zuma can continue kicking the can down the road remains to be seen.

Khaas is a businessman and political commentator. Follow him on Twitter @tebogokhaas

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Read more on:    duduzane ­zuma  |  jacob zuma

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