Mbeki launches veiled attack on Zuma for disregarding the Constitution

Former president Thabo Mbeki. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Former president Thabo Mbeki. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Former president Thabo Mbeki has pleaded with the current ANC leadership to go back to basics to ensure they carry out the mandate given to them by the electorate and improve the lives of millions of South Africans.

Speaking during a panel discussion at an event celebrating the adoption of the Constitution, Mbeki launched a veiled attack on President Jacob Zuma and other leaders of the governing ANC – accusing them of disregarding the Constitution.

“As South Africans, we signed a common contract to say this is the South Africa we want to build. It is an important day because it brought to an end a struggle that lasted centuries,” said Mbeki.

He said the ANC leadership, because of its struggle credentials in the fight for freedom, had greater responsibility to understand and respect the Constitution.

“This must be a daily document that helps us to act, it might save us from doing wrong things, including the president,” said the former president in a thinly veiled swipe at Zuma.

Last month,  the Constitutional Court found that Zuma failed to uphold the Constitution by failing to comply with the public protector’s remedial action to pay back a portion of the R246-million used for security upgrades at his rural Nkandla homestead.

Mbeki said if people understood the Constitution much better, they would demand the removal of government officials who have been found to have acted unconstitutionally.

“If society does more to understand the Constitution, then we will be able to reach the ‘ideal’ set out by it.”

Mbeki said the ANC leadership should stop lying to itself and face reality.

The former president quoted Deputy Minister of Agriculture Bheki Cele who, during a May Day rally in Port Elizabeth, said “the ANC can continue lying to people, but can no longer lie to itself”.

He said it was time for introspection because in every corner of the country “people were talking” and there was a lot of disaffection and restlessness about the current leadership. “If you’re a leader of the people, look at how you serve the people and your responses to your everyday needs,” said Mbeki.

He agreed with Cele that the rallies did not work anymore and that what was needed was to embark on a door-to-door campaign, an initiative which became popular during his time in office, to speak to the people.

“The problems of social cohesion, the problems of morality, the problems of the economy … the people are saying where is our country going?”

Mbeki called for a much-needed national dialogue instead of speaking in the corners, and applauded Zuma’s call for such a dialogue during his January 8 address.

“Let’s encourage openness, let’s give ordinary people the voice to say how they feel, in the media, in communities and everywhere” said Mbeki.

Constitutional founder chips in
Justice Zak Yacoob who was part of the group of people that wrote the Constitution, said South Africa would only achieve the society it envisioned in the Constitution if leaders acted honestly.

“The constitution imposes an obligation to everyone one of us to live for that society envisioned in it.”   

Yacoob warned against a fallacy in the country that the Constitution has achieved the kind of society we desire; racism is still rife and women are still discriminated against. 

“I was a racist and sexist when I was younger, I went through my own journey, it’s a difficult process to get rid of your own prejudice,” Said Justice Yacoob.

Justice Yacoob called on every citizen to read and live by the bill of rights. 

“Everyone should try to read at least a part of the Bill of Rights before going to sleep, understand it and embrace it, and be sympathetic to those who were vulnerable because the Constitution meant that this country said ‘goodbye to the law of the jungle’ and therefore no women should be discriminated or [anyone] because of their race.”

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