Let’s deal with the rot within legal boundaries
THE announcement that former President Jacob Zuma will have his day in court over corruption-related charges evoked different reactions from different quarters. Whilst others believe opposition parties will exploit the situation to their advantage, the ANC remained cautious in its response – maybe for obvious reasons. The statement released by the ANC Secretary-General was brief: “The African National Congress (ANC) has noted the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to reinstate charges of corruption against the former President of the ANC and the Republic of South Africa, Comrade Jacob Zuma.
“The ANC reaffirms its confidence in our country’s criminal justice system and our respect for the independence of the judiciary. We equally affirm our commitment to the constitutionally enshrined principle of equality of all before the law. Accordingly, we call on South Africans at large to afford the NPA space to conduct its work unhindered, we continue to assert the inalienable right of all in our country, including Comrade Jacob Zuma, to be presumed innocent until and if proven guilty.”
The statement is non-committal on whether the party supports or not supporting its former president. In the past years, the issue of corruption allegations against the former president has proved to be threatening to the continued existence of the oldest liberation movement in the country. Whilst others in the party believed that he should be exonerated by the court of law of all the allegations against him, others felt that it will be the ANC itself that will suffer the most. The latter argued strongly that an attack on Zuma was a direct attack on the party itself, and therefore he should be defended. This line of argument was exploited to the maximum by opposition parties and other civil organisations as a reluctance by the ruling party to deal with corruption especially when it emanates from its own ranks or committed by one of its own especially those occupying higher positions.
The South African political scene in the past nine years was characterised by allegations of corruption against the former president. In fact, the word corruption became synonymous with Zuma and marches were organised across the country for his removal from office. It was a time of dilemma for the ANC with analysts and others from its own ranks blaming Zuma for the dismal performance in the 2016 municipal elections and also predicting that the party may lose the 2019 general elections.
However, the situation, as analysts say, has changed. The ushering of a new leadership within the ANC was accompanied by not only the strong words against corruption but the promise of action against any wrongdoing within both the public and private sectors. Therefore, the announcement by National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head, Shaun Abrahams, that Zuma will finally face the charges came as a relief to some and instilled a sense of fear in others. The sense of fear is political and, we believe, is not based on the need for justice to take its course. The worry emanates from uncertainty on what the prosecution of the former president means for the ANC.
The ANC itself should not or must not be seen to be sending mixed messages when it comes to dealing with corruption as it has promised, especially by its new president Cyril Ramaphosa. The party should desist from issuing statements that may be seen as a means to defend those that are perceived to be wrong.
Without casting any negative aspersions on the former president, we believe it will only be the justice system that will exonerate him or prove to be true the allegations that have been hanging like a cloud over his head throughout his term as a president of the Republic.
When dealing with the rot, let’s follow due process. As many South Africans woke up to the news that South African Revenue Services commissioner Tom Moyane has been sacked, many rejoiced but others were alarmed.
The move by Ramaphosa to clean the rot that exists in government is welcomed but he must follow due processes. We just came back from a long culture of court litigations due to unfair dismissals. Former President Jacob Zuma’s legal bill sits at a whopping R15 million. We don’t want history to repeat itself. Ramaphosa can’t be starting his term with litigations.
Moyane has already indicated that he will be challenging his suspension. The decision to suspend Moyane followed a meeting in which Ramaphosa informed him that he had lost confidence in his ability to lead SARS and offered him an opportunity to resign with immediate effect but Moyane declined.
In his letter, Moyane accused Ramaphosa of not allowing him to give his side of the story on the Jonas Makwakwa matter. Moyane said he did not understand why he should resign while Parliament was handling the issue. He further indicated that when he declined to resign, Ramaphosa made it clear that he would proceed to effect the dismissal.
This is where it gets interesting and worrying at the same time. Moyane raises a valid point in this matter: “To my surprise, you intended to proceed with dismissal notwithstanding that there is no evidence of an irretrievable breakdown of trust between the President and the Commissioner of the SARS.”
We need to understand the legal grounds that he is being fired on. There has not been a disciplinary hearing which found him guilty of any wrongdoing. This is a very dangerous terrain he is trading on. It further paints a picture of a curling of Zuma allies. That is fine but do it within the labour laws.
It might be argued that he has just been suspended and not fired but we know how things go in the country, suspension ultimately leads to firing.
All we ask is for the labour laws to be followed and not trampled and we will support the decision but not if it’s going to cost us the taxpayers. We are tired of court actions and we urge you, Mr President, to not take us down this road again.