No consequences for Zuma a sign of arrogance triumphing over principle
Athol Trollip, Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Alliance
6 May 2010
Cabinet has today announced that it will not impose sanctions on President Zuma for failing to comply with the Executive Ethics Act. In addition, the Presidency has publically stated the President does not intend to apologise for his misconduct. In contravening the Executive Ethics Code, and refusing to account for this behavior, President Zuma acted as if he were above the law. Cabinet’s decision has confirmed that, in the eyes of the Executive, he is.
In her report into the President’s conduct regarding his financial non-disclosure, Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, found that President Zuma had breached Section 5.2 of the Executive Ethics Code. The President broke the law - brazenly and unapologetically. Such behaviour constitutes a direct attack on the values the President committed to upholding when assuming power. It raises further questions about the example the President is setting in his capacity as national leader.
Cabinet’s decision to shift the focus of this debate to the problems with the Executive Ethics Code, rather than the President’s misconduct, is deeply concerning. It is firm proof that the individuals representing the seat of the country’s Executive power place little emphasis on accountability- the corner stone of democratic governance.
President Zuma’s actions and the actions of the Cabinet have thus achieved two things: first, they have further undermined and eroded away the principle of accountability in the public eye. This is to the detriment of our democracy. Second, they have undermined the rule of law, by flouting the law and refusing to account the message is clear: the law is negotiable and consequences subject to political considerations. This too is to the detriment of our Constitutional order.
The President should be ashamed. But his is not. His is no doubt proud. Secure in the knowledge that his colleagues have subverted principle in favour of special treatment. So proud as to not even apologise for his behaviour and the precedent he has set.
This is not the nature of good leadership; rather it is how arrogance manifests in practical terms. It is a sad day for our democracy.
I will be submitting a question to the President, to ask why it is he is not willing to apologise, why his actions do not warrant sanction, what his position is on personal responsibility and whether he is willing to make a statement on the Public Protector’s report into his conduct.
If the President will not answer these questions willingly and out of a sense of duty, the DA will use those democratic mechanisms available to it, to hold the President to account and, in turn, to answer to the South African people.