It is sad when a party loses talented people. It is sadder when one has worked for decades to build a party to see it teetering on the brink of a major setback.
President Jacob Zuma will fight to the death. Picture: Halden Krog
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The citizens of South Africa
cannot but believe that their president is regarded as above the law.
This weakens the very heart
of our Constitution - the rule of law. It strengthens the culture of impunity in
the country and undermines the legitimacy of the state.
The governing ANC should not
be allowed to shrug the shoulders and say that it is a private legal matter.
Jacob Zuma is an ANC deployee who serves at the behest of the party.
But the judiciary and the
broader legal profession should also start an urgent conversation on how the
president of the country has made a mockery of the criminal justice system.
The Supreme Court of Appeal’s
decision last week that the criminal charges against Zuma should be reinstated
was met with an overwhelming “oh well, we know he’s going to get away with it”
from the public.
The irony of course is that
Zuma is possibly guilty of much more serious crimes of corruption, fraud and
money laundering than the few million rand involved in his relationship with
convicted fraudster Schabir “Lazarus” Shaik.
The last five or so years we
have been calculating state corruption in billions rather than the millions
during the Mbeki era.
Zuma has been dodging the
courts for more than a decade.
Shaik was brought to court as
far back as October 2004 for his part in the corrupt relationship he had with
Zuma. President Thabo Mbeki fired Zuma as his deputy in June 2005 and the
charges against Zuma were withdrawn in April 2009 – wrongfully so according to
two court findings.
It is true that others with
unlimited sources for legal costs (in Zuma’s case, our taxpayers’ money) have
also played this so-called Stalingrad game with justice, but this man only
succeeds, and succeeds for much longer, because he has political power, power
the voters entrusted to him.
All of us witness this
outrage dragging on and on, but we are powerless to do anything about it.
This past weekend we had to
read that the case could be dragged out for four or more years if Zuma, his
lawyers and his lapdogs in the prosecuting authority have their way – or be
We dare not allow this.
The independence of our
judiciary and the professionalism of our courts are almost all that stand
between us and anarchy in 2017.
South Africa cannot afford
one individual to show a fat middle finger to these institutions and get away
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng
and his brothers and sisters on the bench in all our higher courts should focus
their minds on this problem. It is with them that Zuma is playing cat and mouse;
it is their credibility he is trampling on.
I’m not clear on what Mogoeng
can do within the narrow confines of legal etiquette, but it is a fact that as
chief justice he is the primary guardian of the credibility and prestige of the
Apart from the fact that the
accused is the head of state, this is not just another criminal case: there is
strong prima facie evidence that Zuma
had a corrupt relationship with Shaik, evidence that has been accepted by three
Zuma is behaving like Grace Mugabe
who brutally assaulted a South African citizen in South Africa while on a
private visit and got away with it.
But there is no provision for
any immunity for Zuma, and South Africa is not Zimbabwe.
There would not have been a
problem at all if we had a National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that had not
been captured by the Zuma inner circle.
The head of this authority,
Shaun Abrahams, should be the immediate target of relentless civil society
We should do our outmost to
force him (and hope that some in his office will support this) to hear Zuma’s
arguments around the prosecution within days rather than months. (I hope
Abrahams realises that Zuma has no legal right to make this presentation to the
NPA, that he is actually just doing Zuma a favour seldom if ever accorded to
If Abrahams then decides not
to prosecute, the decision should be taken to court as soon as possible and
Mogoeng should realise that it won’t be acceptable that we wait several months
for this to get on the court roll.
If Zuma succeeds in taking
his case to the Constitutional Court, it should get preference over all other
If the decision is to
prosecute, the earliest possible date for the hearing should be set.
Through its inaction, the
judiciary runs the risk of being viewed by the citizenry as condoning Zuma’s
efforts to avoid justice.
The ANC, including those
presidential candidates who now criticise him but shielded him for years,
cannot simply wash their hands of Zuma’s dangerous legal games. To still say
“let the law run its course” is an insult to our Constitution and all of us.
It’s time to draw a very
clear line in the sand.
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