Let's Think

Amnesty for Zuma will be final betrayal of constitution

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A jail sentence for two perpetrators of state-linked corruption (fraud and money laundering) handed down by the Northern Cape High Court (NCHC) last week creates hope that the integrity of our constitution will survive.

There were also other signs of hope last week. However, the dangers are far from over. Plans were floating around that for the sake of political expediency, President Jacob Zuma should be offered amnesty against possible future prosecution on similar charges. Should this happen, it will be the ultimate betrayal of the constitution and the legacy of the founding fathers of our democracy.

It is not for us to declare President Zuma guilty – or not - of any crime. That is the task of an independent court of law, as per the supreme law of the land – the constitution.

However, there is enough prima facie evidence in, among other things, a report by a constitutionally mandated independent institution, the Public Protector, for further thorough investigation of the allegations directed at the president.

To not allow the process to run its full unhindered course would be an undermining of one of the cornerstones of the constitution – equality before the law, without fear or favour.

The Block/Scholtz judgement

In this regard, there were some very positive signs of affirmation of the principles involved when the NCHC sentenced John Block, a former NC government Member of the Executive Committee and chairperson of the ANC in the province, and his ‘partner in crime’ Christo Scholtz to 15 years in jail.

Both were also served with a confiscation orders of assets by the National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit to compensate the state for damage caused by their crimes.

The court also rejected intimidation and delaying tactics – something President Zuma is often accused of – by rejecting Block’s complaint to the Judicial Services Commission against the presiding judge.

There are also at least two other important take-aways from this case:

  • Not only state officials are involved in the practice of corruption; more often than not, a private sector ‘partner’ is involved; and
  • Corruption is not a racial thing. In this instance the one convict is black and the other white.

There are, however, also some causes of concern. This includes the tendency of some factions in the ANC constantly to put the interests of the party before that of the greater good.

According to reports, the ANC in the NC is still backing its former chairperson, despite the conviction and sentencing, claiming that Block was not treated fairly by the courts after his conviction and lamenting that his leadership in the province is missed, with signs of “disunity emerging in the province since his resignation”.

These sentiments seem to fly directly in the face of the ANC's integrity commission’s recommendation a year ago, that he should step aside for “putting the party into disrepute” after he was found guilty.

It remains to be seen if the integrity commission, who have requested “interaction” with Mr Zuma, will uphold consistency in their recommendations.


There was another positive sign last week that the tide inside the ANC might be turning towards defending the constitution when Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa finally seemed to find his voice on the matter – calling for united action to “collectively counter the effects of patronage, corruption and the unrestrained scramble for positions and resources”.

He also pointed out that “unity is not the same as closing ranks” – something that has become the hallmark of the ANC’s response when it comes to President Zuma and his massive harvest of controversy and scandal. 

However, this new sign of hope is not totally unqualified. In his keynote address to the Nelson Mandela Foundation he repeatedly spoke about the “movement” (ANC) as if that and the country were one and the same.

Judged by the factions that have developed and the sometimes suspect strategies employed within the ANC, the day is fast approaching when all truly loyal South Africans will have to choose between the two.

Also read: Zuma delivered as expected but not in full

by Piet Coetzer

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