Zuma vs Zondo: Group urges South Africans to 'vigorously oppose' threat to democracy

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Former president Jacob Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma.
Gallo Images/Sowetan/Thulie Dlamini
  • A group of organisations called on South Africans to "vigorously" defend their democracy. 
  • The group said the call to oppose the threat to democracy was because the Constitution was facing a serious threat. 
  • The group includes struggle veterans Sheila Sisulu and Reverend Frank Chikane.

A group, representing an array of organisations, has called on South Africans to "vigorously oppose" the threat to democracy and defend the Constitution.

On Thursday, the group held a media briefing at Constitutional Hill in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

According to the group, the Constitution is facing a serious threat.

The group includes, among others, struggle veterans, religious leaders, civil society organisations, businesses, workers unions, retired judges and former politicians.

ANC veteran Sheila Sisulu read out a statement, which was apparently discussed and endorsed by 337 people representing the different organisations during a virtual gathering the day before.

READ | Zuma doubles down on decision to snub Zondo commission

"Over more than a decade, parliamentary and political accountability, particularly in the governing party, have been seriously undermined," Sisulu said. 

"Signs of the state's increasing inability to protect its citizens have caused great anxiety among the people. This restiveness in the population has grown as various institutions of governance have been severely tested, some to breaking point," she added.  

The briefing comes after former president Jacob Zuma's defiance of a Constitutional Court order that he appear and testify before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.

Sisulu said the former president, who was once described in a Constitutional Court judgment as embodying the "constitutional being" of the country, was now defying the same court.

She added the "astonishing defiance" of the court order not only "violates the law, but assails the Constitution itself".

READ | 'Hands off Zuma' - Ace Magashule comes to former president's defence over ConCourt order defiance

"While the normal deliberative institutional processes necessitated by such an attack are underway, the former president, frustrated by the impeccable conduct of an independent judiciary, has now launched a malicious attack on the judiciary and, in particular, on the Constitutional Court, a cornerstone of the Constitution."

"The threat to the Constitution goes beyond that posed by an individual. It also illustrates how the individual embodies a political culture fundamentally antithetical of democracy."

Sisulu said South Africans had fought for and chosen a constitutional democracy as a "bulwark against fascism and dictatorship".

"The manner in which people's democracy is being subverted by the purposeful undermining of good governance, eroding accountability and promoting misrule, points to how those who subvert it will govern South Africa should they succeed. After a century of struggle for liberty, South Africa cannot return to the totalitarian order that brought such misery and suffering to the majority of its people."

She said the country's future was only as secure as its refusal to tolerate the destabilisation of the state and the unyielding defence of the Constitution.

"We, therefore, call on all people of goodwill to vigorously oppose this threat to our democracy and to stand united to those intent on violating the values and principles embodied in our Constitution."

Reverend Frank Chikane also spoke during the briefing.

He said they were defending the country, adding that everyone who committed a crime must face what they did.

He also said: "When you get people to account, then there is a pushback. The pushback is [becoming] lawless."

Chikane said they wanted Parliament to support their campaign.

He said they watched Parliament "crossing the line during our lifetime" and failing to support the Constitution.

But now, it should a take a stand and not be spectators.

Professor Thuli Madonsela also showed her support for the campaign via a recorded video.

She said she supported the call to defend democracy because "that's what we fought for". 

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