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
4 July 2008

The pigs are sullying our democracy

During the bad old apartheid years the National Party was often ridiculed for its tendency to see a conspiracy under (or inside!) every bed. There was the swart gevaar, of course, (because if you oppress people and treat them like second class citizens they often become rather dangerous), the rooi gevaar (because everyone who watched Hollywood movies knew that Communists were the bad guys) and also the Roomse gevaar (because who could trust a religion headed by a man wearing a dress and a funny hat).

But those people with their Homburg hats and gray shoes knew what they were doing. By constantly warning white South Africans to be vigilant and to fight against the forces of darkness, they diverted attention from their own despicable actions. This meant they never had to fully justify the morally debauched nature of their own regime.

I was reminded of those dark days when I read this morning that ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, had said that the Constitutional Court was part of the “counter revolutionary forces” out to undermine the “revolution”. With the logic that would have made Adriaan Vlok and PW Botha proud, Mantashe reportedly said that the complaint by the Constitutional Court against Judge President Hlophe was a scene setting move for an attack on Zuma.

This is psychological preparation of society so that when the Constitutional Court judges pounce on our president we should be ready at that point in time. Our revolution is in danger; we must declare to defend it till the end.

If this kind of talk was not so dangerous and destructive, it would be tempting to dismiss it as the nattering of a deranged mind gone around the bend because its owner was forced to re-read Marx’s Das Kapital just one time too many. But it is dangerous – extremely dangerous – when one of the top leaders of the governing party sees fit to attack the credibility of one of the pillars of our democracy for trying to defend their integrity and the independence of the judiciary.

Mr Mantashe seems to suggest that the Constitutional Court complained to the Judicial Services Commission about Hlophe because they are going to dismiss Zuma’s appeal which challenged the validity of the search and seizure warrants used by the Scorpions to gather information against Zuma. Such a finding would be an attack on Zuma and on the ANC and would, according to Matashe, be part of the counter-revolutionary fightback of the dark forces (shall we call this the grondwetlike gevaar – because it is the danger posed by those people who believe in the Rule of Law and the values of our Constitution).

This might on the face of it seem like an absurd and illogical line of reasoning, but I suspect Mr Mantashe is despite all evidence to the contrary not one sandwich short of a picnic. He knows what he is doing and saying. You see, the Constitutional Court was asked to rule on the validity of the search warrants and this will have an significant impact on the Zuma trial. For Zuma supporters a finding in favour of the NPA will be a devastating blow because it will strengthen the NPA case against Zuma, and will bring Zuma’s date with the prison authorities ever closer.

The Constitutional Court knew that their decision in this case had to be absolutely beyond reproach and therefore complained about Hlophe’s behavior and made this complaint public exactly to assure the parties to this dispute that they would not be swayed either way by the alleged improper approach of the Judge President.

In the eyes of reasonable and informed persons – persons whose minds have not been infested by deranged conspiracy theories – the actions of the Constitutional Court have therefore enhanced the credibility of the judgment, a judgment, I might add, that is still to be delivered. But this would be bad news for Zuma if they indeed find against him. If one believes that Zuma must rule no matter what, the only way to fight against reasoned arguments made by judges applying the law and the Constitution is to attack them politically and to try and undermine their credibility.

That is why the Constitutional Court’s credibility must now be attacked and that is why their decision on the matter of whether the Zuma search warrants were legal or illegal has to be painted as an attack on Zuma and on the ANC. For Mantashe and his ilk there is nothing else to do but to attack those who stand for truth and honesty – you see, if you worship a leader with feet of clay, it won’t be long before you find yourself rolling around in the mud with the other pigs.

Of course, if Mr Zuma had nothing to hide, if he was an honest and upright citizen, it would not have mattered one iota whether the raids by the Scorpions were legal or not because the raids would not have produced any incriminating evidence against Mr Zuma. Mr Mantashe’s attack is trying to divert attention from this incontrovertible but highly embarrassing fact. So who cares if the attack leads to the destruction of our democracy?

Mr Zuma has clearly done things that are ethically highly questionable (and may or may not be criminal) and his backers all know this very well. They therefore have no choice but to label as “counter-revolutionaries” anyone who might want the truth to come out. Those of us who have the temerity to insist that Mr Zuma is not above the law, that the law should take its course in his criminal trial, that corrupt people must be sent to jail even if they have a paid up membership with the ANC, well, of course we are going to be labeled as counter-revolutionaries because if we prevail Mr Zuma might well spend 15 years in jail.

These are dark days for our democracy. The pigs have been let loose and are now sullying our Constitutional Court – one of the truly great institutions of our country – and all for the sake of short-term political gain. One thing is for sure, these guys will not get my vote again – ever. And if that makes me a counter-revolutionary so be it.

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