Thursday, 31 March 2016

Jacob Zuma and THAT Constitutional Court judgement

Source: Mail & Guardian
31 March 2016 is a date that will go down in South African history, and spoken about in glowing terms for longer than I'm going to be around probably.

Why? Because for the first time in longer than any South African cares to remember, there's finally an undisputed victory for the rule of law in South Africa (not to be confused with democracy), against corrupt, self-enriching politicians who laugh at their critics in Parliament and do not deign to actually recognise the harm they have caused.

Which brings us back to today, and what makes it special. Today is the day that South Africa's Constitutional Court ruled that the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, not only has to pay back the State's money used to personally enrich himself while his personal compound (in South Africa our president doesn't need a mere house apparently) was undergoing security upgrades; but also found that he AND South Africa's parliament (majority-controlled by his political party, the ANC) have failed South Africa by ignoring an official report by the Public Protector which had already recommended that he pay back money for these unlawful upgrades.

"The president failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution," Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said as he read through a unanimous judgment by the justices in the Constitutional Court.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Here's the key takeaway that has South Africa buzzing - in world politics, there have been bitterly few examples of a national court condemning the country's president and parliament in quite such a stern fashion.

The reason everybody in South Africa is so thrilled about this is because our Parliament has turned into a puppet show: with the ruling party outright controlling the majority of the seats, they blatantly use their majority to overturn any movement brought by opposition politicians that they don't find to be in their favour (most recently crushing the second vote of no confidence in Zuma).

This was never (just) about the money. As long as the ANC has been around, people have always joked openly about the 'gravy train' of corruption and tender-manipulation that has plagued the ANC at all levels of government. Rather, Nkandla and the ANC's absurd defences of it (up to the point of trying to rebrand a swimming pool as a critical water reservoir for fire safety - I kid you not!) has just been yet another case of the ANC thumbing its nose at the South African public,

It's worth recalling at this point that back in 2008, Jacob Zuma infamously stated that the ANC would rule the country "until Jesus comes back". Admittedly recent elections have had the ANC scrambling after their grip on the voters has undeniably been waning, but on one hand the erosion hasn't been fast enough; and on the other some of the beneficiaries of the erosion have been the most dangerous kind of 'revolutionaries' promising sweeping damaging economic and political reforms (e.g. the Economic Freedom Fighters' wish to nationalize South African mines and banks).

Ok, so all of that background and context out of the way, IS this really the big victory it's painted to be? Is it going to be the lever that opposition politicians and disgruntled factions within the ANC will finally be able to utilise to unseat Jacob Zuma from his chair, ahead of the municipal elections scheduled for later this year? Is Jacob Zuma actually going to pay back the money (and with what money and how much), or is he going to find some other way to weasel out of this?

As always South Africa is a country of more questions than answers, but we won't let that detract from the pleasure of reading of the ConCourt's definitive list of 11 judgements on Nkandla today. Today we have a definitive answer, THE definitive answer, to at least one important question: "Will the Constitutional Court hold Jacob Zuma and the ANC accountable?"

Yes. Yes they will.

And on a lighter note, we can all enjoy this awesome twitter account that has had new life breathed into it today: https://twitter.com/NkandlaHome


Sounds familiar.

Bonus note:
To bring this back to Romania (and you knew I had to), I couldn't stop thinking about this shocking news story that took Romania by storm just a few months ago: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34720183 Ponta resigned because of a club fire he didn't personally set ... will Jacob Zuma step down in response to the fire he has stoked with reckless and gleeful abandon throughout his terms as president?