After years of numerous failed attempts to permanently stay his prosecution and circumvent having his day in court, former president Jacob Zuma this week made yet another move that suggests that he and others such as the abaThembu tinpot dictator Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, who recently received a presidential pardon for his crimes, might be above the law.
Ironically, Zuma has always insisted that he wishes to have his day in court so that he can clear his name from the multiple corruption charges levelled against him by the state.
However, this should not be surprising for even the biblical figure Simon Peter once promised he would carry the cross with Jesus until D-Day arrived, but I digress.
Unfortunately, Zuma is not alone in his quest to render South Africa a lawless monarchy.
He has since garnered the support and sympathy of, among other parties, the ANC national youth task team and former minister of social development Bathabile Dlamini, who have demonstrated to the nation and the world that they couldn’t care less about the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution in the republic.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the national youth task team denounced and “noted with disgust” the warrant of arrest issued by the Pietermaritzburg High Court against Zuma after he failed to appear in court for the first day of his trial for whatever reasons his lawyers cared to advance in court.
The national youth task team goes on to describe the warrant of arrest as “nothing but a continuous vilification that the former president is subjected to in this country”.
It further reminds us of how Zuma cannot face criminal prosecution when people such as former president FW de Klerk, “who committed crimes against humanity, are roaming around the streets of South Africa, paraded like some heroes who delivered us to the promised land”.
In other words Zuma’s innocence is determined solely by De Klerk’s alleged wrongdoings. Nothing under the sun could be more absurd.
Not to be outperformed, Dlamini came out guns blazing in defence of Zuma and described the warrant of arrest as “a travesty of justice” and “nothing but a symptom of how [black people] and black African lives are disregarded and treated with disdain”.
Race-baiting wins the trophy once again.
What has been forgotten in this entire demagoguery and narrow Africanist narrative is that South Africa is not a monarchy but a Constitutional democracy, where the rule of law forms a fundamental cornerstone of our criminal justice system.
The UN, of which South Africa is a member state, defines the rule as “a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the state itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.
“It requires measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of the law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness, and procedural and legal transparency.”
Moreover, the UN finds the rule of law to be fundamental “to international peace and security, and political stability; to achieving economic and social progress and development; and to protecting people’s rights and fundamental freedoms.
It is foundational to people’s access to public services, curbing corruption, restraining the abuse of power, and to establishing the social contract between people and the state.
“Rule of law and development are strongly interlinked, and strengthened rule of law-based society should be considered as an outcome of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.”
Essentially, what this means is that even Zuma is not above the law.
Given our broken political system and dire economic situation, our country cannot afford to have a judiciary that is susceptible to public perception and yields to political pressure.
Our courts must continue to apply the law impartially and without fear, favour or prejudice, as demanded by section 165(2) of the Constitution.
- Sejaphala is a regular contributor for voices360.com and is an independent political analyst and final-year law student at the University of the Witwatersrand