Jacob Zuma is not above the law

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

After years of numerous failed attempts to  permanently stay his prosecution and circumvent having his day in court, former president of South Africa Mr Jacob Zuma has this week made yet another move that suggests yet again that he and others like the Abathembu tinpot dictator Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo who recently received a presidential pardon for his crimes might be above the law .

Ironically, Mr Zuma has always insisted that he wished to have his day in court so that he could clear his name from the multiple corruption charges leveled 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!

Not to digress, unfortunately Mr Zuma is not alone in his quest to render South Africa a lawless monarchy. He has since garnered the support and sympathy of among others the African National Congress National Youth Task Team (ANC NYTT) and former minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini who have both demonstrated to the nation and the world that they could care less about the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution in the republic.

In statement issued on Wednesday the 5th, the NYTT demagogically denounced and “noted with disgust” the warrant of arrest issued by the Pietermaritzburg  High Court against Jacob 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 NYTT goes on to describe the warrant of arrest as “nothing but a continuous vilification that former president is subjected to in this country.”

The NYTT further reminds us of how  Jacob Zuma cannot face criminal prosecution when people like F. W De Klerk who “committed crimes against humanity” are busy 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 wrong doings. Nothing under the sun can be more ubsurd!!

Not to be outperformed, Bathabile Dlamini –  the African National Congress Women’s League president and former minister of Social Development has come out all guns blazing in defence of Jacob Zuma and described the warrant of arrest as “a travesty of justice” and nothing but a symptom of how blacks 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 United Nations to 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 United Nations finds the rule of law  as “fundamental to international peace and security and political stability; to achieve economic and social progress and development; and to protect 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 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Essentially, what this means is that even Jacob Zuma himself is not above the law! Given our broken political system and dire economic situation, we cannot as a country 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, favor or prejudice as demanded by section 165 (2) of the Constitution. 

Lehumo Sejaphala is a political analyst, a blogger (lehumosejaphala.wordpress.com) and a final year LLB student at the University of the Witwatersrand.