Quote of the week

Regard must be had to the higher standard of conduct expected from public officials, and the number of falsehoods that have been put forward by the Public Protector in the course of the litigation.  This conduct included the numerous “misstatements”, like misrepresenting, under oath, her reliance on evidence of economic experts in drawing up the report, failing to provide a complete record, ordered and indexed, so that the contents thereof could be determined, failing to disclose material meetings and then obfuscating the reasons for them and the reasons why they had not been previously disclosed, and generally failing to provide the court with a frank and candid account of her conduct in preparing the report. The punitive aspect of the costs order therefore stands.

KHAMPEPE J and THERON J
Public Protector v South African Reserve Bank (CCT107/18) [2019] ZACC 29 (22 July 2019)
27 November 2006

ANC more important than the Constitution?

Mr Jacob Zuma is today reported in Die Burger as saying that the ANC is more important than even the Constitution and that ANC members should not use the Constitution to attack each other.

If this is accurately reported, it is the final proof that Mr Zuma really is not fit to become the President of South Africa. In fact, I think anyone who genuinely believes that his or her organisation is more important than the Constitution (and can therefore be disregarded when dealing with organisation members) should not hold any public office in South Africa.

I would not even want such a person to be given an estate’s agent’s licence.

No wonder Mr. Zuma is in trouble with the law. If one thinks one’s own organisation is above the highest law of the land, it should not come as a surprise to find oneself of the wrong side of the criminal law.

Section 83 of the Constitution states that the President must “uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic”. If Mr Zuma were t be elected President will he always uphold, defend and respect the Constitution – or only when it does not hurt or affect members of the ANC?

Maybe Mr. Zuma was misquoted.

Maybe he did not mean to undermine the basic tenets of the Rule of Law, a principle that states at the very least that no one or no institution is above the law. Maybe he only meant that while the ANC members must always obey the Constitution and other legal rules they must love the ANC more than the Constitution and the law.

But even then I would say that it is irresponsible (and very un-statesmanlike) to tell supporters that your party is more important than the Constitution. It undermines respect for that Constitution and sends a signal that the party is above the law.

This is not a signal we want to send to councillors who sit on tender committees and must decide whether to award the tender to their ANC friend or to the most deserving applicant.

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