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Presidents and the Law

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on July 9, 2021 13:25

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It seems that Presidents who see themselves as above the law are in fashion these days. A French King could proclaim: "I am the State" but the French Revolution put paid to that. Or did it? An African President has discovered that the Law is not your toy.

"Always something new out of Africa." We had Nelson Mandela who went from prison to the Presidency, and now we have Jacob Zuma going from the Presidency to prison. Of course it has to be added that Mr Zuma, in his incarnation as Head of Intelligence for the then outlawed Umkhonto We Sizwe did spend time in the Apartheid prisons.

The taint of corruption has followed Zuma for years. Since 2002, when his financial advisor was charged and found guilty of having been in a ‘corrupt relationship’ with Zuma, he has been trying to avoid appearing in court. Charges against him were dropped after a ruling that there may have been political interference in the case. 

Zuma’s followers managed to seize the Presidency through a Palace Coup in 2007, and installed Zuma as Head of State of South Africa. Behind him already then, so accusers allege, were businessmen intent on capturing the state.

By 2016 accusations of massive looting of State contracts prompted the Public Protecter of South Africa to finger the President in her report “State of Capture.” Failing conclusion from Zuma before her contract expired, the Public Protector then instructed the President to appoint a Judicial commission of enquiry, which has been providing South Africans with titbits of gossip on bribery, corruption and other shenanigans at the highest level. But Zuma refused to testify. Eventually served with a summons he appeared, evaded all questions, and left, refusing to appear a second time.

The Commission then requested the Constitutional Court to issue a Contempt of Court judgment against ex-President Zuma. He was given an opportunity to present reasons, but answered with a long rant against the integrity and intentions of the commission and accusing the Court of ‘political gimmicks.’ A blizzard of appeals, injunctions and public protests eventually ran out at midnight Wednesday 7 July, when he was arrested at his palatial homestead in rural Zululand.

The Constitutional Court duly issued a Summons at which the Jacob Zuma Foundation reacted, claiming that the judgment was unfair, and the Judge was ‘emotional and angry.’ A blizzard of appeals, injunctions and public protests eventually ran out at midnight Wednesday 7 July, when he was arrested at his palatial homestead in rural Zululand.

Zuma’s defiance of the courts had become a symbol of the ongoing corruption he had allegedly assisted during his political life. It brought the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis, with the ruling party trying to avoid a confrontation with their erstwhile leader. It also brought the country close to civil war, with his followers threatening violence and brandishing weapons at an illegal gathering at his homestead.

The mills of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. Ex-President Zuma is now contemplating the next fifteen months behind bars.

Elsewhere reports of Presidents trying to hide behind legal constructs to avoid facing their accusers in a court of law are heard. Without respect for the law, no country can flourish.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on July 9, 2021 13:25

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Source: The Hill
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A court in South Africa rejected its former president’s request to delay the 15-month prison sentence he incurred after defying...

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