No time to waste

2015-06-03 11:10
Max du Preez (Beeld)

Max du Preez (Beeld)

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WILL Jacob Zuma ever pay the price for these years of corruption, nepotism, enrichment and undermining of our democratic institutions?

There can be little doubt that history will judge him harshly as the politician who stopped and reversed the progress that South Africa was making towards a more just, equal, prosperous and accountable democracy.

But there’s too much at stake to wait for history to deal with Zuma.

Six months ago, I wrote in a column: “The devastation caused by that one-man wrecking ball called Jacob Zuma will take years to rebuild, even if he were to leave office tomorrow. Sounds a bit harsh? Well, I don’t think the serious damage our fourth president has inflicted upon our political culture and our key institutions deserves softer condemnation.”

My column angered Zuma so much that his office issued two statements in reaction and forced the media group that published it to apologise to him behind my back.

Since then, Zuma Demolition Inc has been hard at work further compromising the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the police and the Hawks, and employing armed police and intelligence agents to undermine the sanctity of Parliament and running a vicious campaign against the public protector.

The last chance we have of holding Zuma accountable is to reinstate the hundreds of charges of corruption and fraud against him that he has succeeded in getting dropped.

Most of the evidence behind these charges was accepted by two high courts during the case against his then “financial adviser”, Schabir Shaik.

It would be fair to say, then, that if Zuma were to be charged again, there is a very good chance that he would be found guilty. The minimum sentence for these crimes is 15 years’ imprisonment.

There have been many debates over the years over whether it would be wise to have Zuma convicted and sent to jail; whether some sort of deal should be made.

I would say that Zuma’s recent behaviour has proved that he doesn’t deserve any kind of deal. He should be charged and, if convicted, sent to jail.

We need a radical step to bring the message home that no one is above the law and corruption won’t be tolerated.

There is a legal process on the go to get the charges against Zuma reinstated. But if one considers how successful Zuma and his inner circle have been in getting rid of those in state institutions who pose a threat to him, one wonders whether this process will bear fruit.

The head of the NPA, Mxolisi Nxasana, left office this week, while the two discredited Zuma pawns in the NPA, Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, are staying put.

The head of the NPA has to make the final decision whether the charges against Zuma have to be reinstated or not and it looked as if Nxasana had the balls to do just that.

Nxasana follows in the footsteps of the head of the Hawks, Anwa Dramat, and several top officials of the South African Revenue Service. Robert McBride, head of the Independent Police Investigations Directorate, has also been fired.

It has become a pattern: if you investigate Zuma or his cronies, or threaten to do so, you will be offered a massive golden handshake, told to shut your mouth and go away.

The NPA was formed in 1998. Since then, it has had four heads of department and four acting heads. Eight people in 17 years.

With Nxasana and Dramat gone, nobody remains to investigate and act against the shenanigans of the Zuma inner circle.

All indications are that the judicial commission of inquiry into the arms scandal under Judge Willie Seriti is going to try its best to whitewash the whole affair.

Zuma and his team were successful in dodging any blame for the abuse of a key air force base by his friends and sponsors, the Gupta family. Instead, officials were blamed, at least one of whom was awarded with an ambassadorship.

It is crude, but it works.

Last week, Zuma and Co used the same trick with Nkandla: Number One is as clean as the driven snow, the officials screwed up. In fact, Zuma is the victim here.

There can’t be many people who watched the bizarre press conference by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, funny videos and all, who really believe that the millions spent at Nkandla are above board.

If opposition parties and civil society don’t fight harder and cleverer, Zuma will again get away with it, just as he has with all the other scandals.

South Africans are punch drunk and suffer from scandal fatigue. Corruption and abuse have become the new normal.

It is of critical importance that the Nkandla issue be brought before the Constitutional Court very soon.

The Western Cape High Court has already ruled that the findings and proposals for remedial action by the public protector are not mere recommendations which an organ of state may accept or reject.

We need the Constitutional Court to reaffirm — or reject — this so we finally know what the legal status of the public protector is.

The report on the Marakana massacre is due for release in the next few weeks. This doesn’t deal with chickens and fire pools. It deals with the killing of 34 human beings. South Africans should not allow this simply to go away like other scandals have.

In the meantime, South African citizens should use every possible opportunity to confront the few remaining “good guys” in the ruling ANC with their complicity in the rape of our democracy: Cyril Ramaphosa, Gwede Mantashe, Zweli Mkhize, Lindiwe Sisulu, Lynne Brown, Pravin Gordhan, Ebrahim Patel, Elias Motsoaledi, Derek Hanekom, Naledi Pandor, Malusi Gigaba, Nhlanhla Nene and Rob Davies.

• Max du Preez is an author, columnist and documentary film-maker

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