The recent conviction of the former South African President Jacob Zuma by a South African court was indeed a clear demonstration of South Africa’s strong institutions based on the principle of the rule of law and the doctrine of the separation of powers as enshrined in the country’s constitution.
It would be recalled that the country’s constitutional court a few week ago had convicted Jacob Zuma on contempt of court charges brought against him by the State and the court subsequently sentenced him to fifteen months imprisonment.
Former President Zuma, who had ruled South Africa from 2009-2018 was convicted due to his refusal to honour a court summons concerning corruption during his reign as South Africa’s helmsman. He is facing multiple monumental corruption charges on allegations of receiving gratification from government contractors, fraud, and money laundering among other charges while he was in power.
The disgraced former President fought desperately to stop his conviction and eventual imprisonment but his legal challenges collapsed completely as the dead line for him to turn himself in or surrender to the Police approached. He would have faced instant arrest by the Police if he failed to surrender.
As tension was mounting in the country particularly in KwaZulu-Natal province, which is Zuma’s home base, supporters of the embattled former President staged massive protests and mounted a huge human shield at his residence ostensibly to prevent his arrest by the police who were poised to carry out the court’s order. Dramatically, however, few minutes before the midnight dead line of 7th July 2021, he voluntarily surrendered himself to the Police who immediately drove him to the South African Correctional Centre to begin his fifteen months jail term.
The fallout of the dramatic turn of events was the eruption of spontaneous massive protests across major South African cities such as KwaZulu-Natal province, Johannesburg, Durban Alexandria among other cities where wide spread looting and arson were perpetrated by irate mobs.
Political analysts had posited that the protests had taken a wider political dimension as the teeming unemployed black South African youths who seemingly were abandoned by successive governments since the end of apartheid immediately took advantage of the extremely tense and volatile situation to wreck havoc and committed monumental mayhem and devastation to the business community in South Africa and her economy. Mostly affected by the mayhem and devastation were the businesses of the white and Asian South Africans who are today in total control of the South African economy. The black majority South Africans are yet to record any significant impact in the nation’s economy since the end of the racist white minority regime more than twenty seven years ago. The white and Asian minority South Africans are still firmly in control of the nation’s economy hence the deep seated anger and frustration of the teeming restive black South African youths who seem to have lost all hope of survival under the government controlled by the African National Congress (ANC).
To further compound the already messy and pathetic situation, it is an incontrovertible fact that there has not been any significant changes, if any, on the highly sensitive and controversial issue of land re-distribution in favour of the black South Africans despite the orchestrated policy statement or thrust by the ANC led government to the effect that the arable lands occupied by the white minority settlers since the past two centuries or so would be re-distributed to the black South African majority at the end of the obnoxious apartheid era.
There is no gainsaying the fact that these unresolved nagging issues were obviously the major reasons for the present political imbroglio or turmoil and instability in South Africa, as the black majority South Africans have continued to insist that they would no longer be treated as inferior citizens or slaves in their own God given country. The current mood of the black majority South Africans is that the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) which has been in power since the end apartheid has woefully failed the people and betrayed the sacred trust of the black South Africans whose hopes and high expectations for an egalitarian South African society has been terribly betrayed and dashed.
The political scenario already playing out in South Africa is a clear manifestation of decades of total discontentment and hopelessness of the black majority South Africans who had placed absolute confidence and trust in the ANC leadership to positively impact their individual lives and usher in the much expected el-dorado at the end of the repressive racist white minority regime. Political analysts have also maintained that unbridled corruption has become endemic within the ANC controlled government.
As the unfortunate political crisis and violence continue to rage in South Africa, it has been reported that more than two hundred people have so far been killed and over one thousand people arrested for massive looting and wanton destruction of properties. In the mean time, incumbent President, Cyril Ramaphosa has appealed for calm and deployed about twenty five thousand reserve troops to the volatile cities and townships to quell the escalating violent protests as the Police has been overwhelmed by the unprecedented level of violence. In his initial reaction, President Ramaphosa had said that the current violent protests were pre-planned and an affront to South Africa’s democracy.
It is the hope of South Africans and indeed the entire African continent that the current level of violent protests and destruction must stop immediately while urgent dialogue with the restive youths must be encouraged to douse the escalating tension in the land. President Ramaphosa’s government as a matter of deliberate policy must take a decisive action to create the enabling environment for the teeming unemployed youths to be gainfully employed and positively contribute to the growth and economic development of South Africa which has been rated as the most industrialized economy within the African continent.
On the issue of former President Zuma’s conviction and imprisonment which precipitated the current mayhem and destruction of lives and properties, the South African judicial system has once again proven itself as a strong, courageous, impartial and independent institution which is second to none in Africa. The judiciary is therefore in a better position to review Zuma’s conviction and must never be cowed or intimidated by mob action or other external forces which have been calling for Zuma’s release from prison.
In conclusion, the ANC which is the dominant political party in South Africa must quickly put its house in order and adopt the same uncommon spirit and energy they deployed to fight and vanquished the obnoxious and repressive apartheid regime to unite and offer good governance to the hapless and psychologically traumatized black majority South Africans. The ANC must therefore quickly restore the hopes and aspirations of the black majority South Africans who had expected a dramatic turn around and positive changes in their individual lives with the emergence of black majority rule over two decades ago.
It is an irony of fate and a matter of deep regret, that the black majority South Africans have continued to suffer the same gross injustice, abject poverty and deprivations under the ANC controlled government which they considered as their own and which had championed their liberation after the protracted and fierce liberation struggles.
The inglorious exit from power and fall from grace to grass of former President Zuma and his subsequent conviction and imprisonment is bound to reverberate across the African Continent and beyond and would obviously serve as an important lesson for African leaders who are still under the illusion that they are above the laws of the land and as such could brazenly trample on the rights of their citizens. They should be quickly reminded that the day of reckoning, when they must give account of their stewardship to their people, would surely come and probably sooner than they could ever imagine.
Nze Akabogu (JP) is a public affairs commentator and analyst. He wrote from Enugwu-Ukwu, Anambra State.
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21st July, 2021