2 minute read
17 Sep 2015
2:15 pm

No remedy for Bashir headache

President Jacob Zuma has had to deal with various elephants in the room during his tenure.

He has had to keep his reported relationship with the Gupta family front-of-mind as it just doesn’t seem to go away; similarly, his homestead, Nkandla.

However, there is a new controversy of far more international significance that threatens to become a constitutional crisis. The South Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed government’s application to appeal against the ruling that allowing Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to leave the country was at odds with the constitution.

The government had argued the summit Bashir attended fell under the auspices of the African Unity and that it raised questions about diplomatic immunity for heads of states. What makes this elephant in the room even bigger is that South Africa will be hosting the Forum on Africa-China Cooperation in December – and Bashir has been invited.

Zuma has reportedly refused to be drawn into whether the Sudanese president would risk coming back to South Africa. The more pertinent question is whether South Africa would risk the ire of the continent by advising him to rather stay away, because this country is still a signatory of the Rome Statute?

Under international law, it has to arrest Bashir. The International Criminal Court has indicted Bashir twice on charges of genocide and war crimes. The other question is: what will happen if government appeals directly to the Supreme Court of Appeal? This episode is far from over, but no doubt a major headache for the government as it tries to uphold its standing in the international community while nurturing the relationships it has built on the continent.

This time, the government will be under no illusions about the magnitude of the public response to the issue, especially now that the December event would not fall under the AU. The next move is in the hands of the government.