Thursday, February 5, 2009




BY Justice Malala
Jan 19, 2009

‘We are led by people who have no respect for the law’

Sordid saga of Jacob Zuma would be funny if not so tragic.

AND so here we are again: the noble African National Congress says that a man charged with corruption, racketeering, fraud and money-laundering is fit and proper to be the face of its election campaign this year.

Zuma plays last card?
Zuma’s out-of-jail card?

As if that were not enough, the man himself says he is ready and willing to take up the mantle of leadership on behalf of his party and lead a corruption-free government. In the meantime, after losing a significant battle at the Supreme Court of Appeal, he will now take his fight not to appear in court to the Constitutional Court.

If the whole sordid saga of Jacob Zuma were not so tragic, it would be funny. But this is no joke. The ANC has decided that there is no honour, no morality, that dictates that its leader divest himself of his positions in the party until he clears his name in a court of law.

Indeed, the party now explicitly wants him to delay his day in court for as long as possible. That there is the stench of corruption hanging over him, that his friend and crony Schabir Shaik lies in jail for bribing him, does not stop them saying that he is “innocent until proven guilty”. And so the briber is guilty, and the bribee is not. The logic boggles the mind.

The ANC needs to examine itself deeply, for it is clear that it is rotting from its very core. This week the party appointed Oupa Monareng, a member of parliament who was arrested, charged and convicted of trying to bribe a policeman in 1996, to chair the ad hoc committee that will determine whether suspended National Director of Public Prosecutions Vusi Pikoli is fit to hold office.

This is not just astonishing. It is crazy. The ANC is putting forward a convicted criminal to preside over a man whose stature is equivalent to that of a judge. Pikoli’s conduct has been found totally above board by Frene Ginwala, appointed by former president Thabo Mbeki to investigate him. It must be the ultimate kick in the mouth to now be judged by a common criminal.

How did we get here? The ANC has been playing fast and loose with the law for ages, and it is now clear that it has lost its moral compass. Its defence of Zuma over the past few years has made it lose sight of the fact that although he might be innocent, the stench of suspicion hangs over him. If he wants this to be removed, he should stop avoiding the dock with his appeals and face the music.

But nowadays there is no such thing as shame in the ANC. How can there be when the head of the party is a man known to beg his handlers for car-wash money? How can there be a sense of shame when the biggest movers and shakers are convicted fraudsters?

It must not be forgotten that it is exactly these new ANC leaders who accompanied Tony Yengeni to Pollsmoor Prison, carrying him on their shoulders like a hero. It must be kept in mind that it was our current deputy president, Baleka Mbete, who rushed to the prison’s gates to bid farewell to Yengeni.

Mbete, a poet, missed the irony of the whole moment: she was late to see off her friend, and it was the institution she led as Speaker — Parliament — which Yengeni had lied to.

It is therefore not harsh to say that we are led by people who have no respect for the law, no sense of shame and propriety and no pride in — and respect — for the institutions they lead. These institutions are only meaningful so long as they can continue to lead to the lining of the pockets of the politicians themselves, their relatives and their front men and women.

We are in trouble — because not all leaders of the ANC are like this. We are in trouble b ecause the culture of intolerance of debate — the culture of acquiescence with the ruling mantras of the Julius Malemas — is so powerful that these leaders are silent as their party falls into disarray.

How could the ANC so brazenly dissolve the Scorpions unit? How can the party, without batting an eyelid, allow so many MPs who have defrauded parliament to continue to sit on its benches and influence its deliberations on issues such as the dissolution of the Scorpions (who found the same politicians with their grubby hands in the cookie jar)?

The ANC seems to think solutions to these problems are hard, but they are not. They begin with a very simple step. They begin with a sense of shame. They begin with Jacob Zuma recognis ing that he cannot lead while he faces such serious charges.