Jacob Zuma betrayed his oath of office

Mosiuoa Lekota

30 May 2012

Speech by COPE President Mosiuoa Lekota in the Debate on the President’s budget vote, May 30 2012

Speaker, under Section 83 of our Constitution the President is obliged to “uphold, defend and respect the Constitution;” and to promote “the unity of the nation” and “advance the Republic”.

On assuming office the President solemnly swore, that he would “protect and promote the rights of all South Africans”, “do justice to all” and devote himself “to the well-being of the Republic and all of its people”.

Therefore it was the President’s solemn, sacred and selfless duty to defend the “freedom of the press and other media” enshrined in 16(1)(a) of the Constitution; and “freedom of artistic creativity” guaranteed in section 16(c).

The only time these constitutional freedoms do not apply is when anyone engages in “propaganda for war”, or “incitement of imminent violence” and the “advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion”. Those are the legal limitations. The Constitution specifically forbids any action that “constitutes incitement to cause harm”.

Speaker, the President, as the main defender of the constitution failed Brett Murray, Ferial Hafajee, Lisa Esser who were exercising their constitutionally entrenched right. He thus also failed the nation

The controversy surrounding the “Spear” did not justify a dereliction of the President’s solemn duty to the Constitution.

Mr Nelson Mandela declared to Mr P.W. Botha: “I love my freedom, but I love your freedom even more”. On a different occasion he said: “Your freedom and mine cannot be separated”.

Our freedoms are indeed inseparable and our rights under the Constitution are indivisible. After leading the ANC to victory in the first democratic election, Mr Mandela made the following pronouncement on 9 May 1994: “Today we are entering a new era for our country and its people. Today we celebrate not the victory of a party, but a victory for all the people of South Africa”.

A president has indeed to represent all the people of South Africa and President does so by upholding the Constitution and maintaining the rule of law.

Brett Murray, Ferial Haffajee and Lisa Esser took the President at his word when he swore the oath of office to uphold the rights of all citizens. They were sadly let down. So were many others in our nation.

When the President took the matter to court with a full bench of judges he did the right thing in following the constitutional path. I applauded that action.

But while the matter was still patently sub judice, the Secretary General of the ruling party, its official spokesman and the Minister of Higher Education resorted to extrajudicial measures to whip up emotions, manifestly trample on the constitutionally guaranteed rights, create fear amongst citizens, call for the boycott of a newspaper and divide the nation. This, I submit, was incitement to disregard constitutionalism in our democracy and to undermine the judiciary.

The call by the Minister of Higher Education for the art work to be destroyed is an incitement to cause harm. This is forbidden in the Constitution.

Speaker, in a country where the rule of law obtains, it is our courts that are the arbiters in civil disputes. The President, whose bounden duty it was to uphold the Constitution, did not once utter a word of disapproval against his party leaders and cabinet members resorting to fascist style measures and tactics to threaten those who were exercising their rights and waiting for the high court was to deliver a judgment.

The President never once asked his followers to await the judgment of the court. The President did not repudiate the Minister of Higher Education for acting in direct contravention of the Constitution. Neither did the President condemn the fascist action of the Minister of Arts and Culture who literally frog marched Lisa Esser to make a public apology before the media.

The President failed to uphold the right of Ferial Haffajee in terms of 16(1)(a) and of Brett Murray in terms of 16(1) (c) and he has failed the nation as a whole by not being faithful to his oath of office.

Nelson Mandela, the father of our democracy, would certainly have responded to a personal indignity in a manner that would have raised the debate rather than create a fury. For him it would have been his paramount duty to uphold the Constitution and preserve national unity. He would never have placed himself above the law or allowed for any extrajudicial and intimidatory measures to be resorted to in order to achieve a remedy which could not be achieved through law. He had no illusions of being a sublime monarch. In 1990, Mr Mandela declared that he stood before the people, not as a prophet but as their humble servant.

The shocking failure of the President to uphold the constitution, over the last fortnight, ought to warrant a review by this House. The laws made in this democratic Parliament seem to be of no consequence and the role of the judiciary of no standing.

Some members of Executive have now placed themselves on a plane higher than the Constitution. They have also made the preservation of the dignity of the President into an extra-constitutional provision that South Africans must abide by at the peril of mass mobilisation against them.

COPE and many people in the nation and abroad are shocked by this subversion of the Constitution by the ruling party. COPE will therefore not support this budget.

The appointments made by the President have brought the government and our country into disrepute. The Constitutional Court found the extension of the then chief justice Sandile Ngcobo’s term of office by the President to be unlawful. The appointment of Menzi Simelane, as the National Director of Public Prosecutions, was likewise declared invalid by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

As though this was not bad enough, the President brought the ever controversial Willem Heath to head the Special investigation Unit and neutralise Willie Hofmeyr. Heath only lasted two weeks.

The President’s personal lawyer, Michael Hulley, has now become a presidential legal adviser. He is thought to have played a role in the awarding of a massive social grants tender to Cash Paymaster Services.

Ministers Shiceka and Mahlangu had to be fired because of serious misdemeanours. Commissioner Cele has had to be suspended and he too will probably have to be fired as well. The case of Richard Mdluli highlights the rot that has set in.

Where the President is required to take matters in hand, he chooses to wash his hands off them and shun the challenges of taking responsibility. Ultimately the buck stops with him. He has to discharge his oath of office.

The appointments made by the President seem not to advance the Republic but another agenda.

Speaker, the rights enshrined in our Constitution are beginning to have a fading utility under the present government. The process of expunging some fundamental rights is occurring before our own eyes. If we do not stand up in protection of those rights, we too will have no protection either.

The President has made clear that in the exercise of his cultural rights, he is not constrained by the Constitution.

A parallel constitution, it would seem, has come into effect.

Speaker, the President has also failed the poor, the jobless and the youth of our country. As the leader of the Executive with contracts signed by them, our

society is not “people-centred” and it is the most unequal in the world. The gap between the rich and the poor is wider than anywhere else. This inequality, which carries on from year to year, must stab at our conscience.

As many as five million people in our country are suffering because they cannot find jobs.

According to Bloomberg, a major global provider of 24-hour financial news, joblessness in our country is higher than in 60 other countries it is tracking. A staggering 75 000 jobs were lost in the first quarter of this year.

In the first nine months of last year, our country attracted only $4 billion in mining investments as opposed to $34 billion which went to mining in Australia.

Foreign direct investment in South Africa, likewise, shrunk almost by half from $9 billion in 2008 to $5.4 billion in 2009. In 2010 foreign direct investment dwindled to $1.5 billion. Will this downscaling continue this year?

South Africa is rapidly losing its appeal as an investment destination because of the image the country is projecting.

According to the Human Development Index 19 million people live on about R13 a day. This is appalling.

Unsatisfactory service delivery to the poor is compounding their hardship and misery. The loss of R20 billion or so in a year, because of futile and fruitless expenditure by government, has robbed 60 000 people of RDP houses that could have been built for them with that money, at R50 000 per house.

The hon. Speaker referred yesterday to the hardship of our children. Christina Nomdo, a researcher, concluded that as many as 52% of South African children experience hunger routinely and that a further 23% are at risk of hunger.

I said publicly, back in 2008, that South Africans should actively defend their democratic space. Today I warn that we are on a slippery slope. The struggle therefore has to continue.

The symbolic lynching of Ferial Haffajee, Lisa Esser and Reuel Khoza by the ANC shows that the democratic space created under President Nelson Mnadela has shrunk considerably.

Congress of the People is committed to defending the Constitution and the freedom of the individual which truly means the freedom of the individual.


Issued by COPE, May 30 2012