Editorial: Don't buck the rule of law
Politicians have had their frustrations with the courts and from time to time they have expressed them in terms that rightly give cause for concern.
But, in the end, they have all bowed before the rule of law.
That commitment now appears to be wavering, compromising both the basic democratic framework and the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority.
This week, President Jacob Zuma's lawyer, Michael Hulley, failed to meet a deadline to file court papers relating to the provision of the "reduced record" that informed the 2009 decision by the former acting director of national public prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe, to drop corruption and fraud charges against Zuma. The "reduced record" would have included transcripts of conversations between then Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and the former national director of public prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, about the timing of the reinstatement of corruption charges against Zuma in 2007.
It was supposed to have been handed over to the Democratic Alliance – which is seeking a judicial review of Mpshe's decision – two weeks after the Supreme Court of Appeal had handed down its judgment in March.
This has yet to be done.
Last week, the acting national director of public prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, filed an affidavit stating that the prosecutions authority had, inexplicably, handed the transcripts over to Hulley – which was causing the delay. There are also suggestions from the authority that these transcripts are now part of personal submissions that Zuma had made to it in 2009 and therefore they are exempt from the reduced record, as per the court ruling.
This is in direct contradiction of Mpshe's statements preceding the dropping of charges, when he confirmed that whatever submissions Zuma had made had been verified by similar recordings that the National Intelligence Agency had furnished to the prosecuting authority.
Said Mpshe: "[the] National Intelligence Agency confirmed to the National Prosecuting Authority that it had, indeed, legally obtained recordings" and the "National Intelligence Agency indicated that it was able to share this legally with the National Prosecuting Authority".
As John Locke noted in his Second Treatise of Government more than 300 years ago: "Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins." You are not a tyrant, Mr Zuma, are you?