Columns 12.2.2018 08:30 am

SA must avoid future JZs

SA must avoid future JZs

In his constitutionally delinquent ways, Jacob Zuma has given us a painful wakeup call: our constitution is not perfect.

This time last week Project South Africa was poised to take one massive leap into a promising and glowing future.

The man the country loves to hate was on the verge of being removed from a position he has used to abuse state resources – but most importantly, the state was about to take back the power that President Jacob Zuma had snatched away from it.

The country was justifiably excited.

But in typical Zuma style he put a dampener on the excitement – and we waited and waited.

But there is a silver lining to Zuma’s intransigence. His delaying the inevitable is giving us the chance to reflect on how we got here in the first place.

It’s easy to dismiss this as simply a case of a popular electoral choice having gone wrong – but that would mean there is a likelihood that we could find ourselves here in the future.

How did we allow ourselves to give a clearly flawed man so much power?

The power to choose the head of the National Prosecuting Authority, the power to choose the head of the Hawks, the power to pick the national commissioner of the police, the power to pick all Cabinet ministers (and to fire them).

Granted, when Nelson Mandela was in power the inherent shortcomings of our chosen democratic processes were not visible, but the current president and his keepers have exposed the system and left us to deal with the consequences.

And we will ignore this at our peril. While Zuma tries to negotiate himself out of a legal quagmire of his own creation, opposition parties should be doing the responsible thing and devising ways and means to prevent a repeat of the current situation.

The judicial arm of our government has played its part in ensuring that its independence remains intact.

That should be used as a launching pad for finding ways of dealing with a captured National Assembly.

Let’s face it, Zuma did what he did to South Africa because the National Assembly allowed him.

The legal bright sparks in the opposition (like the chairperson of the EFF, Dali Mpofu) should be pushing parliament to enact laws that allow the judiciary to act decisively when the constitution is clearly being trampled upon. It should not matter that the ruling party has a majority in parliament, breaking one’s oath to the constitution should result in very clear and decisive action on that office-bearer: removal from office and possible criminal prosecution.

We have a smug Zuma trying to negotiate himself from facing the legal consequences of his acts because our laws were not clear enough for the Constitutional Court to take action against both Zuma and the National Assembly.

Even more frustratingly, a person who has shown scant respect for the constitution could use the same constitution to delay legal proceedings knowing full well that the costs are the taxpayers’ to bear.

Even though we might have a Cyril Ramaphosa waiting in the wings to rescue the situation after Zuma, we need to guard against the general excitement blinding us to the possibility of a David Mabuza or Ace Magashule finding themselves at the helm.

Will they respect the constitution the way we expect Ramaphosa to? If not, then what? In his constitutionally delinquent ways, Zuma has given us a painful wake-up call: our constitution is not perfect.

Let’s get to work ironing out those imperfections.

Sydney Majoko.

Sydney Majoko.

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