Monday 22nd May, 2017
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The call for President Jacob Zuma's resignation

   The call for President Jacob Zuma's resignation

Nothing can be more threat­ening, if not embarrass­ing or upsetting than a call by a country’s workers union for the president of the country to quit even when his tenure has not elapsed. This is the dilemma Presi­dent Jacob Zuma of South Africa is faced with as that country’s pow­erful trade union and a key coali­tion partner of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has called for his resignation following a deeply unpopular cabinet reshuffle. Sec­retary General of the Union, Bheki Ntshalintshali has said it was time for Zuma to “step down” following his recent purge of cabinet critics including the sack of the highly respected former finance minis­ter, Pravin Gordhan. COSATU, it would be recalled, collaborated with the South African Commu­nist Party, and the African National Congress (ANC) to dislodge white minority rule and spearheaded the emergence of non-racial elec­tions in 1994. Now, it has openly endorsed Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ra­maphosa, who led COSATU during the anti-apartheid struggle, to suc­ceed the president in 2019.
It is pertinent to note that since 2009, the ANC leaders have been embroiled in a series of scandals involving both corruption and in­eptitude. The ANC-controlled cen­tral government in South Africa has failed to stem the tide of ravaging violent xenophobic attacks on other African nationals in that country. It has failed to curb or control the world’s largest HIV/AIDS pandem­ic. It has presided over an economic boom that has made millionaires of a well-connected elite but left countless lives unchanged. As a party, the ANC has been accused of politicizing the police and the bu­reaucracy and showing contempt for the constitutional democracy for which it fought for many de­cades. The country is worst hit since the emergence of Zuma as presi­dent. Here is a man who is allegedly engulfed in a series of scandals such as racketeering, money laundering, corruption, fraud and tax evasion. According to media reports, while Zuma was president of the ANC, he was accused of seeking bribes to thwart an investigation into wrong­doing by a French arms company involved in a massive weapons deal in the late 1990s.
In 2003, the then director of the National Prosecuting Author­ity (NPA), Ngcuka Bulelani, was quoted as saying: “We have con­cluded that, whilst there is a prima facie case of corruption against the deputy president (Zuma), our prospects of success are not strong enough... Accordingly, we decided not to prosecute the deputy presi­dent.” But the opposition New Na­tional Party, fired back through its spokesperson, Carol Johnson: “The NNP fails to understand why advo­cate Ngcuka has gone against the recommendation of his own inves­tigation team. His argument that their prospects of success in a crim­inal case are not strong is no reason whatsoever to decide not to prose­cute. All the law requires for a pros­ecution is a prima facie case- which the investigation team says they have.” But Zuma was eventually ar­raigned in 2007 yet the trial judge faulted the procedure adopted by the NPA, stating however that the ruling had nothing to do with the innocence or otherwise of Zuma. The lower court’s verdict was how­ever overturned in January 2009 by the Supreme Court. But rather than charge Zuma accordingly, the NPA jolted humanity on Monday April 8, 2009 saying, “An intolerable abuse of the process has occurred which requires discontinuation of the prosecution”, adding that their case against Zuma was strong, and that they were withdrawing it only because the process was tainted. It is also interesting to note that while striking out the charge against Zuma, Judge Vusi Tshabalala issued a reminder that the decision did not amount to acquittal.
It is equally instructive that Zuma was embroiled in a rape scandal in 2005, in which he shocked the world with his very arcane confes­sion that he took a shower after the ‘act’ in order to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. His misdemean­our in court (and that of his fanati­cal supporters) drew censure from the trial judge while dismissing the case against him. Yet, in spite of the above, South Africans still went ahead to vote in Zuma as successor to President Thabo Mbeki. The hard lesson here is that Zuma emerged as president from the debris of cor­ruption. It would have been prefer­able if Jacob Zuma, in the interest of the ANC, South African democra­cy, and African democracy at large - had stepped down from the presi­dential race and allowed a candi­date without any cloud of suspicion hanging over him to lead South Africa into the second decade of the 21st century. Unfortunately, on Wednesday April 22, 2009, the citi­zens of South Africa elected such a character as president; and they have ever since remained with that burden. This amplifies the dictum that a people gets the leadership they ultimately deserve.
What is however heartwarming in recent times, is that Zuma still faced trial even as a sitting president. His very party, the ANC which jaded him to power in the first place is crusading for his resignation from office. As his unpopular decision to sack Gordhan a first rate finance expert contributed to a credit rat­ings downgrade to junk status two weeks ago by Standard & Poor’s and as pressure on Zuma grew over his move to oust more opponents within the cabinet, a bemused pres­ident is seen quaking in despera­tion to save his job. Even former ANC president, Kgalema Motlan­the, was also quoted as saying that it was pretty difficult for Zuma to command respect after the consti­tutional court found him in breach of the law when he failed to repay government money spent on his private home. Generally, we are not persuaded by the response and attitude of Zuma to all the mind-boggling allegations against him and we fear that the South African democracy may slide if he does not step down before the next general elections. For us in Nigeria, we call for the abrogation of the Immunity Clause in our constitution if we are really serious about the war on cor­ruption. This will enable Nigerians force out from office a sitting leader whose hands are soiled with sleaze.

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