South Africa’s week of storms

Johannesburg – On the evening of the 458th day of the South African lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa and his legendary iPad appeared on our television screens, to deliver his umpteenth “family meeting” speech.

In each instance, the president appears, the president speaks and the president disappears. No questions taken; no discussions allowed.

The latest speech was tall on prevention protocols including the announcement of the commencement of the adjusted alert level 4. But it was short on vaccination acquisition and roll out.

And yet, the president still managed to hit a proud note as he trumpeted “our rapidly expanding national vaccination programme”, the 2.7-million (out of 60-million South Africans) who have received a vaccine dose and the daily vaccination rate of 1oo ooo.

Not a word about the billions of PPE (personal protective equipment) funds lost to graft. Not a cent thrown in the direction of the people who will be adversely affected by the latest lockdown provisions. Flailing in the storm of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, mired in a floundering vaccination programme, amid a series of PPE corruption scandal allegations, the latest of which involve the minister of health himself; South Africans have entered the 27th week of 2021.

The storm of sending Zuma to jail On Tuesday, another storm was unleashed, when the Constitutional Court handed down one of the most momentous judgments to date.

Adopting a curious strategy of lawfare, former president Jacob Zuma resolved to broadcast disdain for the judiciary and to treat the courts of the land with contempt.

In letters and in press statements, in word and in deed, he presented himself as a victim of injustice, even daring the Constitutional Court to send him to jail.

Last Tuesday, the court did just that, when it convicted Zuma of being in contempt of court, sentencing him to 15 months in jail.

Zuma’s supporters are seething and the ANC is in a quandary at the political implications of the jailing of Zuma. Although he is unlikely to spend much more than three months in jail given his age and the country’s parole dispensation, whether he spends one day or one year in jail is immaterial.

The verdict and the sentence are now part of our public record and the principle of equality before the law has been upheld.

The minority judgments notwithstanding, this is a landmark ruling.

The Mkhwebane storm Meanwhile, another storm had been gathering; either since October 2016 when advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane assumed her duties, or since 2017 when the CR17 campaign delivered one Cyril Ramaphosa as the president of the ANC – whichever way you look at it. Mkhwebane, accompanied by the EFF, had approached the Constitutional Court to appeal the Gauteng High Court ruling setting aside her CR17 campaign report.

Delivering its verdict last Thursday, the Constitutional Court concurred with the high court. So, for the umpteenth time, the incumbent public protector was given yet another judicial slap in the face.

This in the middle of a parliamentary investigation into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.

It is noteworthy that the Constitutional Court found that Mkhwebane had made many serious errors of fact and law.

She was found to have arrogated to herself powers and authority not granted to her office by the relevant sections of the constitution.

Astonishingly, she was also found to have altered the wording of a provision in the executive member’s code of ethics to enable herself to make an adverse finding against Ramaphosa – thus demonstrating a lack of an “open mind”. While agreeing that Mkhwebane had made errors, in his minority judgment, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said “the president received a disclosable benefit”, which Mkhwebane was correct to investigate. Of three storms that lashed South Africa, ordinary South Africans must contend daily with the reality and the danger of the deadly corona delta variant and the economic crunch that comes with a tighter lockdown.

• Prof Maluleke is a senior research fellow at the University of Pretoria Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship. Follow him on Twitter @ ProfTinyiko

Tinyiko Maluleke

Also read: Historic week for SA after Constitutional Court sentenced Zuma to prison

ANC again bows to Zuma’s demands

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