Quote of the week

Mr Zuma is no ordinary litigant. He is the former President of the Republic, who remains a public figure and continues to wield significant political influence, while acting as an example to his supporters… He has a great deal of power to incite others to similarly defy court orders because his actions and any consequences, or lack thereof, are being closely observed by the public. If his conduct is met with impunity, he will do significant damage to the rule of law. As this Court noted in Mamabolo, “[n]o one familiar with our history can be unaware of the very special need to preserve the integrity of the rule of law”. Mr Zuma is subject to the laws of the Republic. No person enjoys exclusion or exemption from the sovereignty of our laws… It would be antithetical to the value of accountability if those who once held high office are not bound by the law.

Khampepe j
Secretary of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State v Zuma and Others (CCT 52/21) [2021] ZACC 18
14 August 2007

Finally he fires someone….

I have missed the drama of the firing of the Deputy Health Minister, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, because of a trip to Senegal, where (I imagine) the services provided at Frere Hospital (even before they shipped in more equipment to please the Minister) would have been regarded as quite good or even excellent.

It is therefore tempting to agree with Business Day editor, David Bruce, that the firing is not that a big a deal. If the Deputy Minister lived in Senegal she would have been hysterical all the time shouting “national emergency” every time she left her air-conditioned office or tried to eat the local food. Besides, article 93 of the Constitution allows the President to appoint and fire Deputy Ministers and if he thinks she was not a team player or that she made the Minister look too stupid and heartless, he would be well within his rights to fire her.

However, the firing must be seen in the light of the President’s infamous “bikini” ANC Today letter in which he claimed that the newspaper had lied about the conditions at Frere Hospital in order to hurt the ANC. As I wrote on this Blog, the letter revealed that our President lives in a bubble and is in deep denial about the problems faced by his government.

The firing therefore acts as a stark but scary reminder of why the President is so oblivious to the South African reality as lived and suffered by real people with flesh and blood who cry and bleed and die. In his letter firing Madlala-Routledge, the President said that the Constitution requires Ministers or Deputy Ministers to be team-players, but he seems to think this means that they must always toe the official line and must never be critical of the collective wisdom of the cabinet.

No wonder the President acts in ways that can appear cold and heartless and out of touch with real people and their problems. Obviously those around him are too scared and intimidated by him to tell him the unvarnished truth. I can well imagine that he would use the kind of obfuscating bullying tactics on full display in some of the weekly letters to shut up any advisers or ministers who do not reflect the “objective truth” as ordained by our President.

And now we know that those who are not intimidated, are the only one’s who run the risk of being fired. So if you are stupid or lazy (or both), you can keep your job as long as you never question the wisdom of the Chief – even when that wisdom has nothing to do what is actually happening and how people are really experiencing the world.

President Mbeki has many admirable attributes. He is intellectually gifted, often thoughtful, respectful of the Rule of Law and the Constitution, and a stickler for rules. But he seems to me to have a fatal flaw in that he has a messiah complex and thinks he alone knows what is happening and how to deal with things in the best way. Because he sees all facts as ideological, all facts can be re-interpreted from his ideological point of view. This means that those “facts” that do not fit his understanding of “objective reality” can easily be rejected as the inventions of those who are out to destroy the ANC.

This leads our President up blind alleys and into dead-ends.

Thus, President Mbeki decided that a “virus cannot cause a syndrome” and blasted anyone who disagreed with him (ask Tony Leon or Zackie Achmat), thus setting in motion a dynamic which have probably led to the avoidable HIV infection of hundreds of thousands of South Africans and the premature death of just as many who never got access to anti-retroviral drugs.

He fires the Deputy Minister for showing compassion and understanding of the health crisis faced by many ordinary South Africans, yet continues to support a Minister who by all accounts is a nasty, selfish and vindictive individual with a drinking problem. Is it just me who thinks that he will be judged quite harshly by history because of this – despite his many fantastic qualities which otherwise would have made him a hero for many of us.

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