Quote of the week

As seductive as certain perspectives of international law may appear to those who disagree with the outcome of the interpretative exercise conducted by this Court in the contempt judgment, sight must not be lost of the proper place of international law, especially in respect of an application for rescission. The approach that my Brother adopts may be apposite in the context of an appeal, where a court is enjoined to consider whether the court a quo erred in its interpretation of the law. Although it should be clear by now, I shall repeat it once more: this is not an appeal, for this Court’s orders are not appealable. I am deeply concerned that seeking to rely on articles of the ICCPR as a basis for rescission constitutes nothing more than sophistry.

Khampepe J
Zuma v Secretary of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector Including Organs of State and Others (CCT 52/21) [2021] ZACC 28 (17 September 2021)
12 March 2009

Give Zuma a chance?

Xolela Mangcu has an interesting column in today’s Business Day on Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, in which he argues that we should give Jacob Zuma a chance as President. (What would we do without the editorial pages of Business Day? Hopefully the rumours about its immenent demise are premature.)

As Mangcu points out:

Over the past decade we were called terrible names by Thabo Mbeki and his bloodhounds — “foot lickers of the white man”, “coconuts”, “native assistants”, “askaris”. We were banished from the public broadcaster and disinvited from many a conference. We were hounded out of our jobs because we marched to a different drum. We were called unpatriotic and plotters against Mbeki. His commandos put us down as wannabes who were only interested in meeting the president.

So bloated was Mbeki’s sense of self-importance that his acolytes actually believed the gibberish. You would have been forgiven for thinking the whole squadron was in a state of delirium. The delirium inoculated them from the reality that there were other people with minds of their own out there.

According to Mangcu he cannot be sure whether Jacob Zuma will be any different, but he is nevertheless prepared to give the new man a chance.

I attended a meeting with 100 other academics at the University of Johannesburg in which Zuma gave a clear commitment to academic freedom. Mbeki had made me so cynical about these things I kept pinching myself. . . . . And so I will give Zuma the same benefit of the doubt I gave Mbeki in the late ’90s. If he should squander that goodwill then I would be the first to let him know.

What this country needs is a wellspring of ideas that come from within its academic institutions — inspired by the experience of its people and enriched by the formful of other clever boys and girls in the land.

I have some sympathy for this view. Amongst the chattering classes there seems to be some hysteria about Jacob Zuma becoming President. As I have pointed out before, at least some of this hysteria is linked to class prejudice and the fact that Zuma is not educated and seems to be something of a traditionalist. So we would all do well to calm down and to give Zuma a chance to show that he will not only talk the talk, but will also walk the walk on everything from Aids to corruption to crime.

Can he be worse than Mbeki? Probably not.

The problem is that there are other reasons why we might be skeptical about Zuma. He is a patriarch and sexist. He is a homophobe. He befriended a crook, took millions of Rands from that crook and then did favours for that crook. This is not conjecture – we know all this from what Zuma has said himself and what has been confirmed in the Shaik trial.

Fact is that Zuma never should have been elected President of the ANC. There are far better candidates in the ANC who are not as fatally tainted as Zuma. But because Mbeki managed to scare off all the other candidates and because he fired Zuma as Deputy President, thereby freeing Zuma to campaign for the top job, it was a choice between the devil we knew and the devil we did not know.

So, I am torn. Yes, one must always give a new guy a chance to show whether he is up to the task or not. That would only be fair. But, unfortunately Zuma is ethically tainted and if we just ignore that fact we lower the standards for public morality in a most distressing way. How can we demand high public morality from our politicians when our President himself is such a deeply unethical man?

So maybe I will be a bit Budhist about this and try and hold two contradictory views at the same time. On the one hand,  in government I will give Zuma a chance and will be open to pursuasion about his concerns for the poor and his skills and getting the government to do its job. On the other, I will not forget that Zuma is an ethically deeply tainted man who needs to get his day in court to answer all the charges against him.

2015 Constitutionally Speaking | website created by Idea in a Forest