Does former President Jacob Zuma want his day in court or not?
He has always insisted on wanting to have his side of the story heard in response to the allegations made against him. Despite continuous assertions of cooperating with relevant authorities, his deeds arguably seem contrary.
From his recent actions, such as submitting a questionable sick note to the KwaZulu-Natal High Court, it is easy to assume that he has no intention of having his day in court.
The latest developments in the more than ten-year-long corruption trial, include a warrant of arrest being issued against him. Again, for reasons known only to Zuma and his legal advisors, it appears the former president is bent on avoiding court.
He is not, as we have seen throughout the country, the first politician to be dogged by serious allegations.
Nor is he the first leader in the world, especially Africa, who has had to face the law after their term in office. Those within the ANC who criticise the pursuing of corruption or criminal charges against Zuma, claim the allegations and charges are a cover-up against the witch-hunt used to settle a series of political scores and are more about a power struggle within the party than anything else.
The spectacle surrounding Zuma has made me wonder – do Africans attach a special kind of sentimentality when it comes to corruption or allegations thereof against former leaders who were part of liberation movements?
Is this lenient stance among voters exploited by leaders who demonstrate arrogance without limit in using their terms in office for personal and political gain?
Acting with impunity in the fundamentally grimy and crooked arena of politics while coining it – is this acceptable? Not even the knowledge that individuals are being investigated has deterred some politicians and public servants.
Is the South African public more forgiving? Would the outcome be different if the governing party was mostly white or had no struggle credentials, or has the public becomes so numbed by corrupt practices that we don’t care?
I use the former president as an example to provide a basis on which to argue that if South Africa cannot demonstrate that as a growing democracy it can tackle the corrupt practices in politics when brought before the criminal justice system, then it has no chance of holding politicians to account.
Message to the nation
Moreover, it is saying to the ordinary citizen: ‘Accept that politics and corruption go together, and there’s little we can do to change it’.
Without getting into the endless debate as to who is more corrupt – the public or private sector –and whose corruption affects society the most, an inescapable observation is that corruption in South African politics goes beyond the individual.
Evidence indicates that it instead becomes part of the collective, part of management, and that it extends beyond the routine charges of fraud, nepotism, collusion and abuse of state resources – practices that mark government or the public sector as a whole.
In the democratic South Africa, the political game shows us that power corrupts, and the fundamental nature of politics is such that it poses a greater risk to democracy.
At the heart of public memory regarding the government’s mounting failures is that there is a lack of accountability, and it stems from political parties’ failure to contain the ambitions of dangerous men and women who seek power.
This has given rise to corruption, self-indulgence, materialism and the permissible culture of aspiration to leadership by anyone.
In the case of the ruling party, the rationale that leaders are accountable to its members, in particular its elective conference voting delegates, has become inconsequential to the very people elected to lead.
Paradoxically, at least to me, this amorphous ‘collective decision’ type of answerability is a way of shrugging off responsibility.
An increasing point of frustration within the country regarding corruption, whether in the public or private sector, is that while accountability is being talked about, it is woefully missing and never applied.
The prevailing assumption that democracy deepens with each successful election will be tested in the face of the miasma of corruption that has become a feature of the democratic South Africa.
In recent years, it has eroded, stolen and captured resources meant for the people.
To remedy this situation and instil accountability into politics, the sentimental, often utopian, lenient and soft-hearted approach, as well as the countless chances we give to politicians must come to an end.
Until we do that, their self-serving nature is such that corruption will flourish and accountability will remain a wish.