Former president FW de Klerk says he’s “deeply disappointed” in President Jacob Zuma, saying Parliament had failed to play its constitutional role of holding the executive to account for its actions.
In an interview with eNCA on Friday morning ahead of the National Foundations Dialogue Initiative in Parktown, Johannesburg, De Klerk said South Africans were speaking from different perspectives as the the country was weakening economically and constitutionally.
“I think we need a dialogue across political and ethic divides to get people to take hands and work together to get SA on the right road again. We need the economy to grow; we are not doing the right things to get economic growth.
“We need greater equality; we are not doing the right things to promote greater equality. We need adherence to the constitution, and we finding the constitution on the thread. So it is to build to my mind a growing consensus through dialogue [about] what to do through the framework of the constitution to get SA on the right road again,” he said.
De Klerk along with former presidents Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe, and former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka have initiated through their foundations a series of dialogues to tackle recent political and economic challenges besetting the country.
The former statesman said the discussions on issues of national importance were not about lobbying for Zuma to step down amid calls from opposition parties and civil society organisations for the president to vacate office following a string of scandals.
He said the dialogue was about South Africa’s future beyond Zuma’s presidency, saying he was deeply disappointed in the head of state.
“I think accountability is one of the most important values encapsulated in the constitution, and I think it’s one of the aspects where we are going in the wrong way … I’m deeply disappointed in President Zuma, so I’m not defending him in any way, but it’s not about Zuma this dialogue, it’s about SA and all its people,” De Klerk said.
“It’s about how do we repair damage that has been done and how do we take the next step forward to ensure that SA fulfills its tremendous potential [and] how do we get a good future for our youth; that’s what this dialogue is about.”
In March last year the Constitutional Court found that Zuma had failed to uphold and defend the country’s constitution and protect public resources in relation to controversial excessive non-security upgrades to his private residence in Nkandla, Kwazulu-Natal – De Klerk said Parliament failed to exercise its constitutional obligations and the country needed to reform its electoral laws.
“As far as accountability is concerned, government is accountable to Parliament. Parliament it is not playing its role properly in that regard in holding government to account.”
Asked whether he had the moral high ground to speak on issues plaguing the country, considering that he was the last president of apartheid, De Klerk said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) had cleared him of any wrongdoing.
He said he was “absolutely convinced” that the overwhelming majority of all South Africans disagree that he shouldn’t be part of the initiative by the former leaders.
“There was no atrocities executed by order of me, I was never part of any decision justifying or authorising any gross violations of human rights. The truth commission [TRC] tried to find something against me in that regard; they could not.
“I’m proud of the privilege that I had to play a role in preventing a catastrophe in SA and my record stands on its own,” he said.