Former President Jacob Zuma’s refusal to appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture has left us deeply troubled and his decision must be condemned.

This latest defiance of a Constitutional Court order to appear before the Zondo Commission is a slap in the face of our democracy.

In the recent judgement against Zuma, his conduct is labelled “antithetical to our constitutional order”. It rings similar to the “Nkandla judgement” passed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng several years ago in which Zuma’s failure to comply with remedial action taken against him by the Public Protector was found to be “inconsistent with his obligations to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution”.

The Constitutional Court is correct in its criticisms of the kid-gloves with which the former President has thus far been treated by the Zondo Commission. Had this sort of blatant defiance and disregard for the law been displayed by an ordinary citizen, it is doubtful that the individual would have enjoyed a similar leniency. 

We commend the Zondo Commission’s pronouncement that it will lay a criminal complaint against Zuma for failing to appear before it in January. We hope that the Commission will do what it is legally empowered to do and act against the former President if he again fails to appear later this month.

We call on the African National Congress to take a decisive stance on its senior member’s deplorable conduct. We are disappointed that the ANC has, to date, chosen not to comment on as serious a matter as this. Surely, the governing party should have publicly communicated an opinion about its former president, who has brazenly dismissed a ruling by the country’s apex Court.

We urge political parties to call for a debate on the matter in Parliament later this month. Accountability does not end for someone who, as a former President, continues to benefit from the public purse. Parliamentarians, whose duty it is to conduct oversight over the Executive, should consider what policies may be adopted to ensure that even after leaving Executive office, a former head of state remains accountable in terms of upholding and respecting the Constitution of the country.

Ensuring that the law is now applied to Zuma equally and justly is a matter of principle. The recent judgement against Zuma made it clear that “in our system, no one is above the law. Even those who have the privilege of making laws are bound to respect and comply with those laws. For a long as they are in force, laws must be obeyed”.

We are mindful that Zuma’s band of supporters – some of whom are also facing serious allegations or charges of corruption – will use a possible arrest as a basis to turn Zuma into a political ‘martyr’.

Already, Zuma is drawing absurd parallels between an arrest for a potential violation of the law in democratic South Africa, to that of his arrest by the apartheid government. We want to remind the former President that most South Africans will not be deceived by these antics.

We remember that it was Zuma who presided over an era that saw our country being handed on a silver platter to alleged crooks and thugs. We are reminded that according to witnesses at the Zondo Commission, it was under his administration that some businesspersons had the liberty to meddle in government decisions for their personal financial gain. 

Every time our lights go off, or our trains do not run, or when rating agencies downgrade the country, we are reminded of the network of state capture criminals who laid siege to our fiscus, systemically dismantling good governance.

A few days ago, we heard witness testimony at the Zondo Commission of how money from our intelligence services was allegedly set aside on a monthly basis to be funneled to the former President.

We heard how the intelligence service that should be looking after our nation’s security interests was seemingly repurposed to serve the personal and political needs of a few.

We will not be duped by the Twitter trolls and other Zuma ‘henchmen’, who will now try and use the false narratives of ‘victimhood’ to sow contention and discord. 

We see the former President’s disregard for the law for what it is – an attempt to delay justice.

The time for Zuma to account is now!

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