14 December 2017

DISHONESTY: South Africa’s Burden

Responding to the North Gauteng High Court Ruling against President Jacob Zuma

In 2015 the Dominicans in South Africa (an order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church founded by St. Dominic in 1216) were the first complainants to approach the former Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, requesting that she investigate State Capture. The Dominicans had become increasingly aware of the growing allegations that South Africa’s hard-fought democracy was being eroded by those who were supposed to protect it, including the president and other state officials close to him.

Advocate Madonsela, responding to the complainants, launched an investigation. Her report recommended that a judicial inquiry be appointed, headed by a judge, because the president was conflicted.

President Zuma, who did not cooperate with the public protector’s investigation, objected to the instruction. He arrogantly argued that only he, as president, has the power to make such decisions. He said that he would take the report on review. He has since then, done nothing else but deceive and abuse the country’s judicial system to prevent this important commission from being set up.

The landmark judgement handed down by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday is a victory for the people of South Africa, the former public protector and the Dominicans who initiated this investigation. Judge Dunstan Mlambo said that the remedial action ordered by Advocate Madonsela was “reasonable, rational and appropriate.”

Judge Mlambo further confirmed the complainant’s suspicions saying that the president had a “personal conflict” and this presents an “insurmountable obstacle for [him] and lends credence” to the public protector’s recommendation. He also said that the president’s review application was a “non-starter and the president was seriously reckless in pursuing it as he has done.” He said that the president was “ill-advised” and “had no justifiable basis to simply ignore the impact of corruption on the South African public.” It was precisely the impact of corruption on ordinary South Africans, especially the poor, that led the Dominicans to request an investigation.

In his judgement Mlambo said that President Zuma’s conduct “falls far short of the expectation on him as the head of state to support institutions of democracy.” The complainants concern, therefore, that South Africa’s democracy is not in safe and trustworthy hands and is being undermined is a reality that needs to be investigated.

Zuma’s refusal to cooperate with the law and follow the recommendations of the public protector reveals yet again that he has respect neither for his office nor the people of South Africa. Judge Mlambo noted that he had “an opportunity to confront and address the problem” but failed to do so.

The judgement in the high court damningly said that President Zuma was “vindicating his personal interest when initiating this litigation,” and ordered that Advocate Thuli Madonsela’s remedial actions be upheld.  The Jesuit Institute supports the court’s decision and agrees that this must be done so that a credible investigation can be carried out.

The Jesuit Institute South Africa commends the complainants for approaching the public protector in the interest of truth and the common good, key principles in Catholic Social Teaching.

The Institute further commends the judiciary for being a courageous moral compass. South Africans can be proud of our judiciary which has never failed to hold those who are meant to serve the people of the country accountable when leadership have shown, over and over, that they have no intention of being honest or of service.

We have noted the ANC’s response to the judgement and call on the party, once and for all, to act decisively against its president who has not only damaged the party’s reputation but also abused the country’s justice system and caused harm to the nation. President Jacob Zuma has proved, once again, that he does not have the integrity to lead. He is a compromised man whose dishonesty is a burden to South Africa. He is dangerous because he is either ignorant of the law or chooses, deliberately, to snub the law. He and his cronies can no longer be shielded.

ENDS
————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

For more information contact:

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ, Director. Tel +27 82 737 2054 or email r.pollitt@jesuitinstitute.org.za

Fr Anthony Egan, SJ, Ethicist. Tel +27 72 938 4553 or email a.egan@jesuitinstitute.org.za