Maimane: Bedrock of SA democracy attacked – Zuma impeachment now imperative

Columnist Max du Preez described him as South Africa’s one man wrecking ball. But this time the country’s deeply compromised President Jacob Zuma has gone too far. By ignoring the Constitution, indeed, attempting to override it through alternative processes, President Jacob Zuma has attacked the very bedrock of his nation’s hard earned democracy. To repair the damage, retribution must to be swift and sure. Yesterday’s Constitutional Court judgment removes the option of a dignified exit which might yet have been possible even last week. This morning, the DA leader Mmusi Maimane elaborated on an impeachment call he made immediately after listening to yesterday’s verdict by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. He believes ejecting Zuma goes beyond party political issues, that all Parliamentarians are obliged to do their duty according to the ultimate law of the land. The ANC is still studying the judgment, doubtless looking for a way to do the right thing without further weakening an organisation that has been severely compromised by its flawed leader. How its elders must wish there was a time machine available so they could travel to Polokwane in December 2007 and reverse the madness perpetrated there. – Alec Hogg  

By Mmusi Maimane*

Yesterday marked a significant moment in South Africa’s democracy, as the Constitutional Court delivered its momentous judgment in the Nkandla saga.

Mmusi Maimane, head of the Democratic Alliance
Mmusi Maimane, head of the Democratic Alliance

This judgment is an immense victory for democracy, for the Rule of Law, and for the people of South Africa to whom the President is ultimately accountable. In a Presidency defined by the capture of state institutions by the governing party, it is reassuring to see the judiciary remains an independent arm of government. This should be celebrated by all South Africans.

While it is crucial that the President does indeed follow all of the Public Protector’s remedial action, including paying back a reasonable portion of the cost, there is a far greater issue at play here.

The Court yesterday found that President Zuma failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the land by disregarding the Public Protector’s report. This amounts to a serious violation of the Constitution and the law and satisfies section 89(1) (a) of the Constitution, which provides for the impeachment of the President.

The process of impeachment is not one that the people of South Africa should take lightly. It should be reserved for the most serious cases of improper conduct or unlawful conduct by the head of state. It should be used to send a message to the President and the people of South Africa that abuse of the Constitution – which the President has sworn an oath to uphold and protect – will not be tolerated. It is a crucial check and balance that the architects of our Constitution believed was necessary for the safeguarding of the highest law in the land.

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The DA believes that the scathing unanimous judgment of the President yesterday by the Constitutional Court requires this sanction. It simply cannot be business as usual when President Zuma has been found to have violated the Constitution, and by implication his oath of office. The punishment must fit the crime, and the crime is of the most serious nature in this case.

As the DA, we therefore call upon Members of Parliament, representatives of the people of South Africa, on either side of the House, as well as society as a whole, to mobilise to support this motion of impeachment to remove Jacob Zuma from the highest office in the Republic.

This matter transcends party political interests. The only interest that must be put forward are those of the people and the country.

The process for Impeachment is provided for in our Constitution. Section 89(1) stipulates that “The National Assembly, by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of at least two thirds of its members, may remove the President from office only on the grounds of – 

(a) a serious violation of the Constitution or the law;

(b) serious misconduct; or

(c) inability to perform the functions of office.”

If the impeachment is successful, the President will not only be removed from office, but he will also lose the perks of office he would have accrued. It is therefore not just a removal of the President, but a suitable punishment that sends a clear message to South Africa: that there will be zero tolerance for corruption – regardless of who you are.

Parliament:

Parliament’s conduct was also under scrutiny in this scathing judgment. The National Assembly – due to the conduct of the ANC – flouted its obligations by adopting the resolution based on the Police Minister’s findings- born of fatal errors in law- exonerating the President from liability. This the Court resolved “was inconsistent with the Constitution and unlawful”.

To this end the DA contends that the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Baleka Mbete, was derelict in her custodial duty to uphold the Constitution.

Time and time again the Speaker has allowed her position as the National Chairperson of the African National Congress and proximity to the President to compromise the unbiased execution of her constitutional mandate in Parliament.

The DA believes that as custodian of Parliament, Ms Mbete must be held accountable for her complicity in this miscarriage of justice, and we urge her to stand aside and resign. Should she not do so, we will consider tabling a further motion of no confidence in her. It cannot be that Parliament, which should be the first line of defence for the Constitution, is allowed to undermine it without appropriate sanction.

Her removal would hopefully help restore the institution’s now tattered reputation, and we call on all members of the Assembly to support it.

Vote for change that stops corruption:

Yesterday’s judgment by the Constitutional Court has made one thing abundantly clear to South Africa: the ANC has changed. It is no longer the party of freedom and democracy. It has used every opportunity available to it to defend Jacob Zuma instead of holding him accountable.

The culture of corruption has been allowed to fester at the very top of government for too long, without any action by the ANC and its senior leaders. It has to be brought to an end, because it is ultimately the poor, jobless South Africans who suffer most.

Read also: Brilliant: Mmusi Maimane – The ‘Sell Out’ President – betrayal of 8.2m citizens

This year, South Africans have an opportunity to send a powerful message to those hell-bent on allowing corruption to remain in government. They have an opportunity to punish the ANC at the ballot box for Nkandla, and the high levels of corruption which lock so many people out of opportunities.

On the Saturday, 23 April 2016, the DA will be launching our Election Manifesto in Johannesburg. This will be the start of a campaign to bring the change South Africa needs, by creating jobs, delivering services and stopping corruption. It is the start of a campaign to make South Africa move forward again.

Your vote is the most powerful mechanism to hold the President, and those determined to protect him and his friends at all costs, to account. It is the most effective way to end this scourge of corruption. This year, South Africans must vote for this change, by voting for the DA, and our principles of Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity for all.

  • Mmusi Maimane is the leader of South Africa’s official opposition, the Democratic Alliance.