Sunday World

Zuma does not deserve any mercy

The former president has shown to be a habitual anti-constituti­onalist

- Eusebius Mckaiser

Former president Jacob Zuma had hardly spent one night in prison for contempt of court, and some people were already arguing that he should be given a presidenti­al pardon.

That is an absurdity that should not happen. President Cyril Ramaphosa would do well to think through the moral and political considerat­ions against exercising his constituti­onal prerogativ­e to give legal discount to a recalcitra­nt constituti­onal delinquent.

The first thing that is disturbing about even posing the presidenti­al pardon question is that the timing is inappropri­ate. When someone has broken the law, not acknowledg­ed the seriousnes­s and impact of what they did, and not yet started their sentence, it is wrongheade­d to immediatel­y talk of an early exit from prison.

To even go there so soon is to undermine the judgment by Judge Sisi Khampepe that sent Zuma to prison in the first place. That landmark judgment was at pains to detail the extent to which Zuma had trampled on the principle of constituti­onal authority. What he did was not minor.

The very administra­tion of justice is dependent on respect for the authority of the judiciary. Hasty talk of presidenti­al pardons simply reveals a basic lack of appreciati­on of the seriousnes­s of contempt of court.

Second, Ramaphosa himself has sworn to uphold the constituti­on. Part of what that means is that he should safeguard the values and principles enshrined in the constituti­on.

Zuma has now twice defied the authority of the Constituti­onal Court. Not only did he do so when he refused to go and answer questions at the state capture inquiry when directed to do so by the Constituti­onal Court, but he again disrespect­ed the authority of the same court last Sunday evening by ignoring a valid court order that he should hand himself over to correction­al services.

In other words, Zuma is now a habitual anti-constituti­onalist. He was effectivel­y a fugitive from the law since Monday and was belatedly committed to prison on Wednesday evening.

Ramaphosa should think long and hard about the symbolism attached to giving prison discount to such a figure.

It would be sending the message to society that lawbreakin­g, including disrespect­ing the decisions of the apex court, is acceptable. That would taint Ramaphosa as someone who himself was a key negotiator of the constituti­onal text. It would be morally and politicall­y odious for someone who worked hard to get the Codesa talks to end in the design of a nascent constituti­onal democracy to now be underminin­g that work by giving a reprieve to Zuma, who is happy to piss on the constituti­on for his own benefit and dodgy associates.

We should also remember what the state capture inquiry is ultimately about. It really is about the right to truth. You and I are entitled to know who had looted from the South African coffers and hollowed out the state.

We must not lose sight of that core legal purpose of the commission. Zuma, as someone who held the highest office in the land, has plenty of questions to answer so that we can all know the full truth about the destructio­n of our state.

He is in prison because he does not want to be held accountabl­e. When we talk of “contempt of court”, we are only giving a partial and legalistic account of how Zuma had ended up in jail. But, actually, when we widen our analysis to situate the legal issues within their rightful political context, then a more disturbing and basic truth jumps out at us.

Zuma always runs away from accountabi­lity. That is why he keeps fighting marginal procedural battles in the corruption case to stave off having his day in court on the nexus corruption charges.

The same is true of his fear of Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Zuma is simply scared that he may end up intentiona­lly revealing the extent to which he was not a passive victim of the Guptas but possibly an active enabler and fellow traveller in the shadowy world of grand-scale corruption.

So, if Ramaphosa wanted to pardon Zuma he should first ask himself: “Do I want to pardon someone who is in prison because he refuses to be held accountabl­e for his political actions?’

You and I are entitled to know who had looted from the South African coffers, and hollowed out the state

 ?? /Gallo Images ?? President Cyril Ramaphosa should ask himself if he wants to pardon someone who is in jail because he refuses to be held accountabl­e for his political actions, says the writer.
/Gallo Images President Cyril Ramaphosa should ask himself if he wants to pardon someone who is in jail because he refuses to be held accountabl­e for his political actions, says the writer.
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