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For someone who is so disinclined to pay attention to the rulebook, Jacob Zuma is quick to reach for the rule of law when it suits him.

The cavalier manner in which he appointed sycophants and lackeys to his cabinet, or had executives of state-owned enterprises shunted out of the way, is testimony to his aversion to transparency or having to explain his reasoning. Institutions such as Parliament, designed in a democracy to hold political rogues in check, had been subverted, by Zuma and his predecessor, to such an extent that it took another institution of democracy, the Public Protector, to rein him in. Zuma’s determination not to have the day in court he has requested is a further example of his aversion to explaining himself.

Yves Vanderhaegen
Yves Vanderhaegen

Most recently, his guerrilla warfare on legitimate institutions has extended to the commission of inquiry into state capture. His disdain for the proceedings was apparent during his one and only appearance, and from his performance it was obvious that he thought he could capture the sympathy vote by conjuring up visions of spies and plots. That backfired so spectacularly that he has decided that avoidance and obstruction are the only options left available to him. What he absolutely cannot afford, is to have to explain himself.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, on the other hand, has deemed that he does have to explain himself, even if he is dragged kicking and screaming to the inquiry. Reports at the weekend that the commission has issued subpoenas relating to 20 accounts linked to Zuma and his family, as well as to his education trust, show that Zondo has decided to go for the jugular.

Zuma has sensed the danger and will this week escalate his attempts to get off the hook by applying to the courts to save him from having to testify before the commission.

It should be clear to the public, however, that his interest is not in due process, but in assailing and subverting institutions to undermine their credibility.

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