Publication: Sunday Independent Issued: Date: 2004-10-10 Reporter: Tony Leon

When Power Perverts Principle



Sunday Independent

Date 2004-10-10


Tony Leon

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If the cabinet is upset that the media is speculating about allegations against Deputy President Jacob Zuma, that is too bad. The deputy president and government have only themselves to blame.

If Deputy President Zuma is innocent of any wrongdoing then he should immediately have sued the National Prosecuting Authority and the relevant media for defamation. That is what I did when Renier Schoeman of the New National Party accused me of potential criminal activity, and the matter was put to rest very quickly. There were also other steps that could have been taken.

President Thabo Mbeki was requested to widen the terms of reference of the Hefer Commission to include allegations of corruption involving the deputy president. He did not. The deputy president himself could have given evidence to that commission to clear his name. He did not.

The fact is that in allegations of bribery there are two parties involved. It is seldom that one is charged and not the other. In the absence of any kind of legal action taken by the deputy president to clear his name, we are left to conclude that political pressure may have been applied in order to protect him from prosecution.

It is therefore no use for the cabinet to complain that he is being tried by the media when the government itself made sure he would not have any other kind of trial. The deputy president should have been charged along with Mr Shaik, and certainly should be charged if new evidence emerges. That would force the state to prove his guilt, or - conversely - allow him to prove his innocence.

The cabinet should worry less about what the media is saying and more about applying its code of conduct to its members. Because it has failed to do so, and has again tried to blame the media, its own integrity has been undermined and government's commitment to transparency and accountability jeopardised.

Faced with a choice between hegemonic ambitions on the one hand and the values of the South African constitution on the other, the ANC has chosen power over principle. The only way to secure South Africa's democratic future is to build a strong opposition, an alternative that can stand up to the ANC. That is what the Democratic Alliance will continue to do.

This is an extract from a speech by the DA leader at the party's provincial congress in Limpopo yesterday.

With acknowledgements to Tony Leon and The Sunday Independent.