Mpumelelo Mkhabela

Jacob Zuma must go… for the right reasons

2018-01-05 12:02
President Jacob Zuma (Photo: Gallo Images)

President Jacob Zuma (Photo: Gallo Images)

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The call for President Jacob Zuma to either resign or be fired has almost become universal.

But he must not be removed for the wrong reasons. He must not be removed because of the nonsensical arguments that he and his allies advanced for the removal of Thabo Mbeki a few months before his constitution-sanctioned presidential term was due to come to an end.

Back then, in 2008, Zuma and his allies in the ANC popularised the so-called "two centres of power" fallacy. In terms of this fallacy, it was untenable that Mbeki should remain as president of the country while the ANC had elected a new leader in 2007. (If the ANC was genuinely concerned about this, it would have aligned office terms of its elected leaders with the terms of government).

To deal with the fallacy, the newly-elected leadership of the ANC felt it needed to take over state power without going through the dirty work of campaigning to seek a mandate from voters. They needed power "ngoku" (Xhosa word for "now", as reported by Mbeki’s director-general Frank Chikane).

The "ngoku" brigade thus made everything out to be about the victorious ANC faction. Whatever the ANC wanted, it should get regardless of the consequences to the country.

Since Mbeki was president for everyone, not just ANC members and supporters, the leadership from Polokwane had to create some propaganda to justify to South Africans why their president, whose term was due to expire in less than a year, would be removed. So, a statement was drafted and read by Zuma.

In the statement, Zuma said the public had lost confidence in the ANC under Mbeki. The ANC, therefore, had no option but to act. In the same statement, he gave not a single reason why he or the ANC concluded that the public had lost confidence in the ANC under Mbeki.

Instead, he listed all the good things that were achieved under Mbeki. Among others, he mentioned economic growth not recorded in a long time. South Africa enjoyed good standing in the international community, particularly on the African continent.

Public confidence in the ANC actually fell after Mbeki’s recall. The lie had been exposed.

The KwaZulu-Natal court judgment that accused Mbeki of a conspiracy against Zuma, and which was used as a pretext to recall Mbeki, was overturned on appeal.

The Supreme Court of Appeal judgment itself laid the jurisprudential ground for the reinstatement of the criminal charges against Zuma. As the High Court in Pretoria recently remarked, nothing stands in the way of Zuma’s prosecution now.

The entire court system and Zuma himself are now in unison. The dropping of the Zuma criminal charges by the National Prosecuting Authority, on untested allegations of political conspiracy allegedly masterminded by Mbeki, was irrational.

With Zuma now agreeing that the dropping of the charges against him were irrational, meaning he concedes there is a case for him to answer, the entire edifice of lies that was the basis of the Mbeki recall has collapsed.

After Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president of the ANC, 2008 video clips of Zuma making a case for Mbeki’s removal using the two centres of power fallacy surfaced and started trending on social media. The idea of those circulating the videos was that Zuma should fall on his own words, so to speak.

He might. But it would be wrong to follow Zuma’s own nonsensical explanation to recall him simply because he used it against Mbeki.

There are plenty of reasons to fire Zuma – the two centres is not one of them. However, it is an enabler: Zuma is no longer in charge of the governing party, so it’s easy to get rid of him for the right reasons. Mbeki was no longer in charge of the ANC and so it was easy to get rid of him, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

The right reasons to recall Zuma, which opposition parties, civil society and ANC veterans have tried in vain to explain to the ANC, is that Zuma has violated his oath of office. This is an undisputed and undisputable finding by the highest court.

Nothing in state affairs can be worse than this. The charge ranks up there with treason and sabotage – the highest crimes you can commit against the state. Ideally, the ANC should have removed him even before opposition parties made the call. It should never be about two centres of power, or the consequences to ANC factions who would threaten to destabilise the party to sustain a personality cult.

Public confidence in the ANC would have risen. Society appreciates when a criminal is locked up. It is utterly disillusioned if he walks free. In addition to violating his oath of office, Zuma potentially faces treason charges for giving away state power to the Guptas in exchange for private benefits that accrued to him and his family.

There are no mitigating factors against Zuma. All the positive things Zuma acknowledged happened under Mbeki were reversed after he took over. In addition, Zuma has consistently demonstrated that he is a totally incompetent president. He has disrupted the functioning of government in every conceivable way. Only he and his friends have profited from it.

Policy making is in shambles.

Consider, for example, his free higher education announcement that was not supported by any planning, budgeting and implementation plan. Yet, he has the whole department of planning, monitoring and evaluation in his office at the Union Buildings.

He has also taken over the budgeting process by establishing a possibly unconstitutional structure through which he decides budget allocations, usurping the Cabinet committee on the budget as well as the National Treasury.

As if this is not enough, he and his favourite minister Bathabile Dlamini have caused chaos in the administration of social grants by failing to adhere to the decisions of the Constitutional Court. Maybe civil society is too fatigued to seek a declaratory order to the effect that by failing to supervise and hold Dlamini to account, both Parliament and Zuma have violated the Constitution and the rule of law.

As things stand, the Constitutional Court is doing the president’s work, requiring the South African State Security Agency and an independent panel of experts to report to it directly on progress in the implementation of the court’s judgments.

This is one of the worst scandals that risks destabilising the country’s entire governance system, and one of the real reasons Zuma must go.

- Mkhabela is a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


Read more on:    anc leadership race  |  politics
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