Former president Thabo Mbeki and retired Constitutional Court justice Zak Yacoob both took swipes at President Jacob Zuma yesterday in a panel discussion celebrating the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the constitution by parliament in 1996.
Apparently in reference to Zuma’s apology after the damning findings by the Constitutional Court against him last month, where he cited bad legal advice for ignoring Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla report, Mbeki noted with concern the lack of familiarity with the constitution.
The Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma had flouted the constitution when he ignored Madonsela’s recommended remedial action regarding the nonsecurity upgrades at his private home in Nkandla.
“A lot of our people are not familiar with what this constitution says. The consequence is that we sit in government and do something that is wrong and even unconstitutional. Mmusi [Maimane, the DA leader] will say it’s incorrect and so will the judges, but where is the rest of society?” the statesman said.
Yacoob, who spoke next, echoed Mbeki’s sentiments. He said the cornerstone of the ANC’s constitution was honesty.
He said the president should be aware of paragraph 5.2.7 of the ANC’s constitution which states that all ANC members shall “observe discipline, behave honestly and carry out loyally the decisions of the majority and decisions of higher bodies”.
He added: “I’m sure the president is aware of this.” On Saturday, Madonsela, speaking in another panel discussion on the constitution’s anniversary at Constitutional Hill, highlighted the responsibilities of politicians and government.
She said more needed to be done to keep the promises made in the constitution to improve the quality of life of all South Africans – specifically the poor.
“We have done a lot in improving human lives, however, in improving all lives – that’s where the problem lies,” she said during the discussion.