Editorial: Zuma’s end would only be the start

Obviously, as a loyal ANC office-bearer, Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery was going to stand up in Parliament and defend the president during an impeachment motion. It was less obvious, however, that SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng would weigh in on constitutional matters, opining that it was a matter of interpretation – and that, in fact, the Constitutional Court did not say President Jacob Zuma did anything wrong.

Is Motsoeneng now acting as a political commentator? Has the SABC fired or blacklisted so many commentators for holding anti-Zuma views that Motsoeneng has to step into the breach? At any rate, his and Jeffery’s argument is pathetic. It is a sign that they have either not read the Constitutional Court judgment or not understood it. Or they are simply lying.

The judgment is quite clear that Zuma essentially broke his oath of office by acting in an unconstitutional manner.

And that is why a storm is raging, as we report this week, on the Zuma issue – a storm in government, in the ANC and across South Africa.

Civil society is finding its voice again, it would seem, and pulling together in the face of a single enemy.

The battle has narrowed down to the issue of “Zuma must go” and the two opposing sides have become more sharply demarcated. The Jefferys and Motsoenengs of the world are starting to look rather lonely; the other side is growing and growing.

The key point to be made, however, is one articulated by former Constitutional Court justice Zak Yacoob when he spoke at a remarkable gathering of struggle elders and social leaders who called on Zuma to resign for the sake of the ANC and South Africa in general.

Yacoob pointed out that Zuma must go, yes, but that he is, in the end, simply the most prominent and visible symbol of larger ills besetting the movement, the government and the country: abuse of power, corruption, and using the party and government to build personal empires – enriching yourself while ignoring what you were elected to do, which is to build a new South Africa and provide a better life for all, especially the poorest.

Zuma’s departure would undoubtedly be a good thing, but it would not be the end.

It would be only the first step in a process that should cleanse South Africa of political leaders who are really only in it for themselves, not to serve the people – and thereby also cleanse the ANC of leaders and members who have contravened constitutional provisions meant to curb corruption and abuse of power.

Without that, South Africa will struggle to remain a constitutional democracy or maintain the rule of law. It runs the risk of turning into a banana republic in which mini-Mobutus can assume everything to be part of their personal kingdom, to exploit and pillage as they like.

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