Columns 7.3.2017 12:05 pm

Zuma again shows middle finger to the law

President Jacob Zuma addresses the Media at an ANC briefing, Parktown, 5 May 2014. He was answering questions from the media relating to the upcoming elections.   Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

President Jacob Zuma addresses the Media at an ANC briefing, Parktown, 5 May 2014. He was answering questions from the media relating to the upcoming elections. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

To a president dodging 783 charges of corruption, it’s not surprising that he sees laws as nothing more than ‘technicalities’.

After a long and not-unnoticed silence, President Jacob Zuma roused himself yesterday to weigh in on the Sassa grants payment debacle.

On the surface, he sounded reassuring, telling South Africa that “the pensioners will get their grants” on 1 April and no one should panic. He said that the supposedly false sense of distress that’s been created hasn’t been helpful, and he appeared to agree with Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, who has openly blamed the media for all the unwelcome attention this matter has been getting.

Speaking in Indonesia, Zuma said “the country must not take this matter as if a problem has arisen”.

Ah. Problem? What problem?

He told us there was in fact no crisis and urged his ministers to not speak about the grants matter in public, an indirect reference to a standoff between Dlamini and her counterpart, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Treasury seems to agree that Dlamini’s crisis is a self-made one so that she can deviate from the law to appoint Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

This is not okay, and Zuma slamming people for “speculating” about the matter is ludicrous.

What was most intriguing was Zuma’s reference to the “technicalities” that need to be dealt with, but which should not be thought of as obstacles to why people won’t be paid.

It doesn’t matter what the law says, is apparently Zuma’s bottom line. We will do whatever we want anyway.

Just like his minister Dlamini, Zuma has made out that the reason everyone is so upset about this whole Sassa grants debacle is because they think grants won’t be paid. I think most of us have always assumed it would happen, one way or the other, even if money has to be trucked to people in Pofadder.

So it’s not the paying of the grants that worries anyone, Mr President, it’s the how and all the questions around why so much appears to have been done to ensure that one company, CPS, continues to be the only one in any position to pay the grants and to make billions out of doing so.

Zuma, of course, must know this. But it suits both his and Dlamini’s purpose to pretend to keep missing the point.

The uncomfortable fact will always remain that the Constitutional Court told us this company should never have been given the job. They allegedly manipulated their BEE status and the tender was not awarded properly.

The ANC government should have been working in overdrive to ensure that CPS is kicked to the kerb, but since 2014 they’ve set things up in such a waythat CPS and CPS alone is in a position to ensure that all those pensioners Zuma apparently cares about so much get their money. (And hey, as an added bonus, Dlamini was able to achieve this by doing what she does best, which is nothing.)

Even now, we don’t know what the new deal with CPS is going to cost us. Even another R1 equals another R17 million a month, and R204 million a year. That’s another Nkandla scandal right there. But you can bet that it’s going to cost more.

The Constitutional Court ordered that this government do something to legalise how grants are paid. It did nothing. We’ve seen the same attitude towards the law throughout this government. The ANC has ignored a number of court orders under Zuma, and who could forget the al-Bashir matter, which continues to haunt us today.

But one can’t expect anything less from a president who’s been dodging 783 corruption charges for a decade.

Laws are not “technicalities”. But obviously, to Zuma, that’s about all that the constitution amounts to, and useful “legal technicalities” are the things that help to keep you from having to account for anything at all.

 

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