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Zuma – time to amputate

For how much longer will the whole nation be dragged through the mud by Zuma?



The stinging, unanimous judgment of the Constitutional Court, delivered blow for blow by Chief Justice Mogoeng, that found that President Zuma has failed to “uphold, defend and respect” the constitution of the country and the oath of his office, has been thoroughly aired in the media.

But, as we obsess about the president doing the honourable thing and resigning (which he won’t), or impeachment (which is impossible given the ANC majority in parliament), or the ANC recalling him (which they are loathe to do as they are just as guilty as him), insufficient scrutiny and comment is being paid to what the judgment revealed about the extent to which Zuma has infected the body politic and our institutions.

In the judgment, it was not only the president that came in for a lashing, but also the behaviour of cabinet, specifically the minister of police. Most crucially, the court found that the unpardonably bad Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, had also failed her Constitutional obligations to hold the executive to account.

The former Speaker, Max Sisulu, has now added his voice, speaking out against the constitutional travesty that is today’s parliament.


Mbete is part of Zuma’s rot. She has presided over the entire Nkandla debacle in the most partisan and undemocratic way. It is outrageous in the first place that the chairperson of the ANC party has been made the Speaker of the house. Sisulu, ever the optimist, thinks it can be fixed. He is right, but not for as long as Mbete occupies the seat with untold court cases against her.

Baleka Mbete. Photo: Daily Maverick

Baleka Mbete. Photo: Daily Maverick

The court also pointed out the insidious manner in which corruption festers. It stressed how nine features were installed because ‘the people involved knew they were dealing with the President’.

The passage is worth quoting in full: ‘the inclination to want to please higher authority by doing more than is reasonably required or legally permissible or to accede to a gentle nudge by overzealous and ambitious senior officials to do a “little wrong” here and there, may be irresistible. A person in the position of the President should be alive to this reality and must guard against its eventuation. Failure to do this may constitute an infringement.’

This is exactly what we saw when the Zuma family’s patrons, the Guptas, landed at Waterkloof Airforce base in their private plane.

So, it starts with a greedy president getting his home revamped. This spirals into pigs at the trough inflating prices to ludicrous amounts – millions of rands for a simple chicken run or a meagre cattle kraal. Minions and toadies go out of their way to impress the “big man” or Number One, piling on layers of corruption. The president sits by as more money is spent on his one private residence than the entire annual funds treasury gives the National Housing Finance Corporation to disburse to all first time home-buyers in South Africa.

The Public Protector sits up and takes note. She investigates. She finds a host of irregularities and she recommends remedial action.


Now, the wound Zuma has inflicted goes gangrenous. The surrounding tissues begin to die and threaten the life of the whole body. The Public Protector is pilloried as a traitor and a foreign agent. Draconian and undemocratic security legislation is invoked to cover up the truth. Ministers launch ludicrous and embarrassing defences, unworthy of their office – a R10 million  swimming-pool is suddenly a fire reservoir. Absurdity piles upon absurdity. Fall guys are found, some persecuted, others surreptitiously rewarded with positions out of the spotlight.

And all the time, institutions fundamental to our democracy are damaged; functionaries with some conscience and integrity are intimidated into silence or dragged through the mud.

The upper structures of the ANC demean themselves with the most transparent of lies. Parliamentary committees behave like imbecile kangaroo courts. The nation becomes ever more polarised.

The president stands in parliament, belittling, mocking, goading and laughing at MPs with perfectly legitimate questions. The Speaker in her attempts to protect him brings parliament to a standstill, calls in policemen, has MPs dragged out of their seats, and makes our legislature the laughing stock of the world.

milks the nkandla cash cow. Photo: Zapiro

Zuma milks the nkandla cash cow. Photo: Zapiro

The whole country is put through the ringer for two torturous years. Umpteen more millions are spent on the cover up, with its sham investigations by the security cluster and the spin machine running on overtime.

There are court cases. The legal counsel of the president and speaker make fools of themselves arguing the indefensible and eventually capitulate before even judgment is given, doing an abrupt volte-face and throwing third-rate bureaucrats and all the president’s defenders under the bus.


In the end, Zuma, hardly humbled, gives a thinly worded, mealie mouthed apology, self-serving and visionless, stopping just short of completely exonerating himself. 

Even in good faith (which is rather implausible) and acting on bad legal advice (which was deliberately sought to find loopholes and wiggle room), it is a blunder of such epic proportions, the fact that we are even debating the continuation of this presidency is a sign of just how far down the track we have gone.

And it is starting all over again now with the Gupta scandal. Worse, the brave Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has to step down in October. Who will replace her?

The ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, to preserve the unity of his party, once more puts the party before the nation.  But does he realise, Zuma is digging a hole so deep for the ANC, they may very well find themselves unable to climb back out?

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