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Jacob Zuma’s flagrant disregard for the Constitution must not go unpunished

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Mthimkulu Mashiya is general secretary of the Transnet Bargaining Council and an accredited commercial mediator - accredited by Conflict Dynamics, Mediation in Motion and by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution. He is passionate about labour law.

The narcissistic constitutional delinquent must be made ‘to obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Constitution and all other laws of the republic’.

Jacob Zuma is behaving like a spoilt brat. 

Over the years, Zuma had become used to the ANC’s closing of ranks in defence of his numerous wrongdoings and misdemeanours. The ANC overindulged, shielded, protected, and defended him as he mastered the art of playing victim. Unsurprisingly, he now displays grandiose and narcissistic behaviour. Classic spoilt brat syndrome!

When he took office (twice), as president of the republic, he solemnly swore that:

“In the presence of everyone assembled here, and in full realisation of the high calling I assume as President of the Republic of South Africa, I… swear that I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa, and will obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic; and I solemnly and sincerely promise that I will always:

  • Promote all that will advance the Republic, and oppose all that may harm it; 
  • Protect and promote the rights of all South Africans; 
  • Discharge my duties with all my strength and talents to the best of my knowledge and ability and true to the dictates of my conscience; 
  • Do justice to all; and 
  • Devote myself to the well-being of the Republic and all of its people.”

In the seminal Nkandla judgment, the Constitutional Court authoritatively and pointedly stated that:

“The President is the Head of State and Head of the National Executive.  His is indeed the highest calling to the highest office in the land. He is the first citizen of this country and occupies a position indispensable for the effective governance of our democratic country.  

“Only upon him has the constitutional obligation to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic been expressly imposed. The promotion of national unity and reconciliation falls squarely on his shoulders. As does the maintenance of orderliness, peace, stability and devotion to the well-being of the Republic and all of its people.  Whoever and whatever poses a threat to our sovereignty, peace and prosperity he must fight.  

“To him is the executive authority of the entire Republic primarily entrusted. He initiates and gives the final stamp of approval to all national legislation. And almost all the key role players in the realisation of our constitutional vision and the aspirations of all our people are appointed and may ultimately be removed by him.

“Unsurprisingly, the nation pins its hopes on him to steer the country in the right direction and accelerate our journey towards a peaceful, just and prosperous destination, that all other progress-driven nations strive towards on a daily basis.  

“He is a constitutional being by design, a national pathfinder, the quintessential commander-in-chief of State affairs and the personification of this nation’s constitutional project.”

From what we’ve heard so far at the State Capture Commission, Zuma did the exact opposite of what was expected of him and what he himself swore to do. The Constitutional Court said: “Whoever and whatever poses a threat to our sovereignty, peace and prosperity he must fight. To him is the executive authority of the entire Republic primarily entrusted.” 

Zuma himself promised and swore that: 

I solemnly and sincerely promise that I will always

“Promote all that will advance the Republic, and oppose all that may harm it; …[and] devote myself to the well-being of the Republic and all of its people.” (My underlining.)

That is why the Zondo Commission must hear his side of the story, so that, when Deputy Chief Raymond Zondo makes his findings and recommendations, he can do so after having heard from ALL those involved and covered by the terms of reference of the commission. Zuma features prominently in the terms of reference of the commission. Ironically, those terms of reference were signed and authorised by Zuma himself. In part they read as follows:

  • In particular, the commission must investigate the veracity of allegations that former deputy minister of finance‚ Mcebisi Jonas and Miss Vytjie Mentor were offered Cabinet positions by the Gupta family.
  • Whether [Zuma] had any role in the alleged offers of Cabinet positions to Jonas and Mentor by the Gupta family. 
  • Whether [Zuma] or any member of the executive‚ public official violated the Constitution or any relevant ethical code by facilitating unlawful awarding of tenders by SOEs or any organ of state to benefit the Gupta family or any other.

It is therefore inexcusable and frankly unacceptable (I daresay despicable) for Zuma to use every (illegal) trick to avoid explaining himself to the Zondo Commission (and by extension, to the nation) when the commission’s mandate revolves primarily around him. It is the very same nation that entrusted him with what the Constitutional Court calls “the highest calling to the highest office in the land”.

Back to the spoilt brat analogy.

The ANC, in his mind, has abandoned him. It is not closing ranks and he feels naked and unprotected. He resorts to his victimhood card.  In his statement on Monday, Zuma makes the dishonest assertion that:

“I am the target of propaganda, vilification and falsified claims against me for my stance on the transformation of this country and its economy.”

However, he goes further and blatantly and unashamedly spits on the Constitution and tramples upon the rule of law. For instance, he makes the following outrageous and unsubstantiated claims in his statement:

“It is clear that the laws of this country are politicized even at the highest court in the land. It is also patently clear to me that I am being singled out for different and special treatment by the judiciary and the legal system as a whole. I therefore state in advance that the Commission Into Allegations of State Capture can expect no further co-operation from me in any of their processes going forward. If this stance is considered to be a violation of their law, then let their law take its course. I do not fear being arrested, I do not fear being convicted nor do I fear being incarcerated.”

“A violation of their law?” He is clearly defining himself outside the laws of South Africa when he says it is “their law”.  

Somebody must remind him about the founding provisions of the Constitution as stated in section 1:

“The Republic of South Africa is one, sovereign, democratic state founded on the following values:

(c) Supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law”. (My emphasis.)

At the time of writing, the ANC had not officially responded to this direct attack on our constitutional order by its former leader. Yet, the opening paragraph of Zuma’s statement claims that:

“I have received an overwhelming number of messages of support from members of the African National Congress and the public at large following the recent extraordinary and unprecedented decision of the Constitutional Court.”

The silence of the ANC has, in fact, been deafening.

Zuma is doing everything to lay claim and earn the epithet of a constitutional delinquent. Our criminal justice system must not fail us.  In “the recent extraordinary… decision of the Constitutional Court” that Zuma referred to, paragraph [87] reminded him that: 

“…this is a Republic of laws where the Constitution is supreme. Disobeying its laws amounts to a direct breach of the rule of law, one of the values underlying the Constitution and which forms part of the supreme law. In our system, no one is above the law. Even those who had the privilege of making laws are bound to respect and comply with those laws. For as long as they are in force, laws must be obeyed.”

Indeed, the republic of laws must ensure that its laws are respected, obeyed, observed and upheld – especially by someone who once occupied the highest office in the land. DM

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  • Sergio CPT says:

    Spoken like a true patriot and 100% right. If he gets away with further shenanigans, then we are lost as a country. The law MUST act now! Call the bluff of all these RET cowards, once and for all.

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