Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2008-08-22 Reporter: Editorial

Deal? No Deal!



Mail and Guardian





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The national consensus for a political deal *1 for the ANC president Jacob Zuma (also the likely next state president) is growing. This outcome would mean that he dodges the corruption, fraud and racketeering charges due to be heard in April next year.

The ruling tripartite alliance is lobbying hard against Zuma going to trial and for a political deal to ensure that he is installed in the Union Buildings next year. All contrary voices are being purged from Cosatu and the SACP.

Business is likely to tacitly back such an outcome. Key private sector leaders believe that the current conflicts about the Scorpions and the broader attacks on the judiciary are too harmful to political stability.

That makes it two large sectors of society where consensus on a deal is coalescing. What about civil society?

If one accepts that the unions are part of civil society, then it's clear that Zuma has that support too. Cosatu is still the largest federation of organised labour.

The punditocracy, the ranks of analysts and journalists who shape national opinion, is also divided. The respected Sipho Seepe is now on board the Zuma project and key editors and columnists are also calling for a general amnesty for all crimes committed in the course of the arms deal (which would cover Zuma). It's clear which way the political wind is blowing.

It is a consensus, but a manufactured one, to get the ruling ANC and its president out of the tightest spot it's ever been in. Since when have we been a nation that bows to pragmatism rather than sticks to principle?

A political deal asks us to sacrifice the rule of law for an inchoate political deal; to carve an unspecified amnesty to ensure the unity of a political party that is best split for the longevity of our democracy.

And make no mistake: we will sacrifice the rule of law for it will be impossible to undertake any politically sensitive prosecution hereafter. Already the judiciary is weakened and the prosecutorial service under-confident in the face of sustained political attack. In that sense the rule of law has already been damaged. A deal will be the nail in the coffin of essential institutions of democracy and ultimately even of democracy itself.

It's too easy to climb aboard the "strike a deal" bandwagon with its tantalising hope that in this way we can make all our pain go away. But it's a chimera, a band-aid. If Jacob Zuma loves his country, he must have his day in court *2. If he walks away innocent, as he proclaims he is, then he will deserve to be our president.

With acknowledgements to Mail and Guardian.

*1       Legally, no deal is possible.

It would require a lengthy (2 years or more) to change it.

Any deal prior to the next election would be unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional.

*2      On the known existing evidence there is no way that he and his co-conspirators can be found to be innocent.

And there's another 93 000 pages of subsequent evidence.

The only way is for the ANC to realise that it has other options for its president and let justice takes its course.

Two asprins and mild pain will pass.