Zuma’s com­ments shed light on state cap­ture

Cape Argus - - OPINION -

FOR­MER pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s re­cent com­ments on state cap­ture and our con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy should worry all of us as a na­tion, in par­tic­u­lar the ANC, his po­lit­i­cal home.

Zuma told stu­dents at the Wal­ter Sisulu Univer­sity in Mthatha that it was MPs in the Con­sti­tu­tional As­sem­bly who made South Africa a con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy in­stead of a par­lia­men­tary democ­racy.

As a con­se­quence, Zuma ar­gued, South Africa did not have a demo­cratic sys­tem based on ma­jor­ity rule.

Zuma lamented how he and his party, the ANC, would take de­ci­sions in Par­lia­ment only to be taken to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court by an NGO and be over­turned.

For Zuma, this is not the kind of a democ­racy the ANC fought for, but was the prod­uct of men and women in the Con­sti­tu­tional As­sem­bly, which was chaired by cur­rent Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

Zuma’s views on the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal or­der are not only ahis­tor­i­cal, but they un­der­score his dis­as­trous ten­ure at the Union Build­ings.

For ex­am­ple, the ANC’s 1991 “Con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ples for a demo­cratic South Africa” doc­u­ment states that there shall be an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary re­spon­si­ble for the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion and ap­pli­ca­tion of the law of the land. The doc­u­ment fur­ther states that the ju­di­cial power would in­clude power to re­view and set aside leg­is­la­tion and ac­tions that are un­con­sti­tu­tional, and that a Con­sti­tu­tional Court shall be set up. There are many other ex­am­ples of how the ANC em­braced a con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy be­fore ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The cur­rent Con­sti­tu­tion, which came into force in 1997, has checks and bal­ances that pre­vent abuse of power by both the ex­ec­u­tive and Par­lia­ment – which was the or­der of the day dur­ing apartheid.

Zuma’s com­ments in Mthatha may help us un­der­stand his run-ins with the Con­sti­tu­tion dur­ing his ten­ure as pres­i­dent and, per­haps, shed light on how we ended up in this era of state cap­ture, which he be­lieves doesn’t ex­ist.

The un­equiv­o­cal mes­sage we should send to Zuma is: we ap­pre­ci­ate the wis­dom of the fore­bears of our democ­racy in en­sur­ing that we have a con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy in­stead of his dic­ta­to­rial par­lia­men­tary democ­racy, which would have driven us into deeper trou­ble than we are in now.

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