When he gets sworn in as president after the May 7 elections, he will raise his right hand and solemnly declare he will “obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic”.
No, he won’t.
His behaviour during the Nkandla “upgrades” and his middle finger to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report showed clear disdain for the Constitution that created the office of the Public Protector.
Why would he start upholding the Constitution now?
It is clear to me Zuma either does not understand or does not accept that South Africa is a constitutional democracy, rather than a Parliamentary democracy.
It appears Zuma and his inner circle even question Madonsela’s right to investigate the president. But Chapter 9 gives the Public Protector the power to investigate “any conduct in state affairs”, in “any sphere of government”, that is “suspected to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice”.
What then are we to make of the ANC’s chairperson in North West, Supra Mahumapelo, who said in his reaction to the Madonsela report: “They say Zuma is our president. We see him as our king. In the African tradition, a king must always be respected and embraced by everybody; regardless.”
There is no chance Zuma will walk away from Nkandla unscathed; it is highly unlikely he will serve a full term. The ANC leadership knows very well they could face defeat in 2019 if Zuma is still the president.
And when Zuma goes, it will be with his presidency entirely defined by Nkandla and other scandals.
A trial in his future?
The High Court has, in the matter of former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, established the principle that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is obliged to explain why criminal charges are dropped.
If this is applied to Zuma, the NPA will have to admit the decision to drop more than 700 criminal charges was a political and not legal one. That would mean the charges would be reinstated.
After the way Zuma had behaved in office over the last decade, not having this trial would be devastating to our national culture of accountability and equality before the law. But sending him to Pollsmoor in an orange suit would probably not be very good for stability.
I would personally support a presidential pardon after the court had sentenced him.
The ANC’s reaction to the Madonsela report and its attacks on her are a reminder that we can’t blame all ills on Zuma. The rest of the leadership are willing participants in the cheapening of the old liberation movement’s dignity and respectability.
I know Madonsela found Zuma had not “willfully” lied to Parliament. I think she blinked. Because from the rest of her report she makes it abundantly clear she thinks he indeed willfully lied to the House.
Still, that phrase constituted a stay-out-of-jail card for the president.
The ANC is probably going to win the May elections with a comfortable majority on May 7.
South African civil society will have to use every available instrument and every millimetre of democratic space to ensure the Nkandla report nails Zuma and his sycophants.
We must not allow it to be dumped in the dustbin of history like Zuma’s other scandals.