Today, the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that the National Assembly of Parliament had failed its Constitutional obligation to hold President Jacob Zuma (ANC) accountable. For better or worse, the judgement is a legal landmark.
SEPARATION OF POWERS
It was a majority judgement meaning that not all judges agreed. Although the Public will simplify this into another Zuma topic, the far-reaching core is the lessened separation of powers between the Judiciary and the Legislature.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo believed that the judiciary had overreached. In a statement afterwards, the EFF inappropriately stated that they were disturbed by Mogoeng being visibly shaken and forcing his contrary, minority judgement to be read out in full by Justice Chris Jafta who was leading the proceedings.
It was unusual but there are two sides.
Although the Court’s decision is necessary for the safety of our country now (the stopping of majority rule supporting the crimes of their leader), that can be detrimental in the long-term e.g. listen to Radiolab’s marvellous ‘Political Thicket’ podcast regarding something similar that happened in the USA – www.radiolab.org/story/the_political_thicket. This writer will leave the justice or judgement debate for legal experts
JUDGEMENT AGAINST ZUMA AND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
The judgement acknowledged the failure of the National Assembly and stated that it must comply with Section 237 of the Constitution. In further financial blow to Zuma, it was ordered that he and the Assembly must jointly and separately pay legal costs.
The judgement requires that Parliament set up proper accountability rules so that, consequently, Zuma is investigated. This will be seen by many as the road being paved towards the impeachment of President Jacob Zuma for crimes such as his abuse of hundreds of millions in public funds to upgrade his home in Nkandla.
THE POWER RACE
Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s current nemesis, ran his ANC presidency campaign on anti-corruption but failed to practice it when he won earlier this month. Instead, he used the concept of “unity” to disguise an attempt to rule over the greater ANC, the corrupt and self-proclaimed anti-corrupt.
Ramaphosa’s desire for power is more relevant than his ambiguity. To become South Africa’s President in 2019, he has to remove Zuma without alienating ANC supporters.
Previously, the ANC hadn’t voted with the many attempts by the Opposition to remove Zuma. They wanted to control their own destiny rather than risk division by faction. The goal has not been to clean the ANC of its rotten baggage but rather, through it’s larger mass, to control a country. Consequently, its extremely difficult to determine what’s real intention versus half-baked intentions for the sake of pretend realism i.e. political marketing.
HOW WILL RAMAPHOSA’S FACTION RESPOND?
The Constitutional Court’s judgement is double-edged sharp, making it harder to play political games whilst also giving the Ramaphosa faction an excuse to get rid of Zuma via recall before an impeachment vote whose joy would be shared with the opposition. A recall may not happen without a Zuma fight but, in the period leading up to election, may prove less traumatic to the organisation’s membership, either keeping the ANC whole or reducing the effect of a breakaway party.
A recall is also a bargain for Zuma as he’d retain presidential benefits. An impeachment would leave him with nothing. Can Zuma, like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, see the writing on the wall so as to make a selfish fianancial decision? But how would that protect him from suffering the consequences of his many alleged crimes? Only a pardon or him remaining in power could safeguard him.
There have been 8 attempts to remove him through motions of no confidence. An impeachment would be a first. However, most would view them collectively, this as the ninth attempt. Practically, an impeachment is far harder, requiring a two-thirds majority versus a motion of no confidence only needing a majority.
A Ramaphosa-led ANC could claim to morally encourage voting with conscience but the reality is that loyalty is more defined by whoever has the most power to ensure the salaries of its supporters. Similarly, the Opposition will vote for whatever brings it closer to power.
The uncomfortably fact and cynicism is that the Public don’t elect presidents. The National Assembly of Parliament does. And if one party dominates, the party decides. Resultingly, Parliament is patronage without conscience.
Most responsible for failing to hold Zuma to account is Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete. The Constitutional Court decision basically instructs her to establish a committee to investigate Zuma’s conduct. Mbete was a staunch Zuma supporter but she switched sides just before Ramaphosa won. Recently, in Parliament, she failed to stop Zuma dodging questions and continuously treating the proceedings as a joke (he was often laughing) but did instruct him not to disrespectfully call a fellow MP, whom he would not answer, an “umfana” (“boy”).
Our South African lives are far more important than an episode of soapies Uzalo or Generations. Our 2017 ends on this very interesting note. 2018 will likely begin in the same manner.
Will Zuma or Ramaphosa be the one to present the ANC’s anniversary in January, address Parliament the same month, or make the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in February? Will Ramaphosa be a proponent for justice or will he let Zuma resign with a deal that evades justice for the sake of oxymoronic “ANC unity” and the consequential, selfish political rule of a country?