We must build institutions that do not flounder and sacrifice principle on the altar of political convenience, writes Masingita Mkhawana.
I think South Africa has set a fairly good example by incarcerating former president Jacob Zuma notwithstanding the sharp resistance and wanton violence unleashed by his bunch of myrmidons that almost held the whole country to ransom. Important infrastructure vandalized, shopping malls looted and burnt to ashes while thousands of jobs were affected in the process, all in the name of former president Zuma.
It is rather a good precedence that the state did not accede nor acquiesce to the demands made by supporters of former President Zuma that he must be released from gaol. Whatever the economic hemorrhage this must have caused, the worst could have happened had the state acted differently. Our constitutional order could have unraveled forthwith and the cost would have been more catastrophic than what we have seen.
We must continue to build institutions of democracy that are formidable and resilient, that can withstand storms of whatever nature and size. We must build institutions that do not flounder and sacrifice principle on the altar of political convenience. Equality before the rule of law is a pivot upon which constitutional democracies are anchored and therefore inviolable. No one is above the law, including former president Zuma.
After these violent unrests what is more important and peradventure also bodes well for project South Africa is the fact that the former president is still behind bars, getting all the necessary rehabilitation. Needless to say he must have by now transitioned seamlessly into this new environment. After all, this is a former freedom fighter who spent 10 years at Robben Island many years ago and also said it in his own words he is not afraid of incarceration.
The state at this current conjecture is saddled with a responsibility to identify and isolate all the key actors in this violence, especially those who meticulously and elaborately planned the worst economic sabotage we have ever seen since the dawn of our democracy, and deal with them very harshly.
More concerning is that the foregoing has to happen within the context of growing trust deficit between critical state organs within the security cluster and the general public. A lot of security pundits have raised concerns and bemoaned the manner in which the state, especially the South African Police Services and the State Security Agency dealt with the violence we have all witnessed recently. In some instances the men in blue were caught on camera watching helplessly while the looting and destruction of property continued unabated.
The other fundamental concern was on the blame shifting we have seen play out publically between the South African Police Service and the State Security Agency, in particular between the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele and the Minister of State Security, Ayanda Dlodlo, with the latter claiming to had furnished the former with the intelligence gathered timeously while the former refutes these claims. Whichever side’s explanation is plausible and legitimate, this does not look good at all.
For the longest time, there have been very senior ANC leaders with serious political influence who consistently forewarned with aplomb and unparalleled bravura that should former president Zuma be arrested there is going to be chaos in the country, the likes of Kebby Maphatsoe, Carl Nieheus and many others. Former president Zuma’s children, most notably Duduzane, Duduzile and Edward were also at the forefront encouraging people to engage in the lawlessness we have seen.
Yet it appears that in the aftermath of the violence we have seen, there is a particular group of ‘instigators’ who have become easy targets (scapegoats) for the authorities, those who wield no political influence at all, who have been subjects of investigations and arrests. While the poor and marginalized have had their shacks and backrooms illegally ransacked by the police of which failure to produce receipts would result in their household items confiscated by the state.
But those who made inflammatory statements (incitement) in public who enjoy massive political influence are left scot free, which raises very serious concerns.
In the final analysis, the fact that the state was (un)wittingly ill prepared to deal with the anarchy that left the country in a higgledy-piggledy is indeed worrisome but at the same time one finds solace that the former president is serving his time and such a quintessential example will be used manana; that no one is above the law. Therefore, people regardless of their positions in society must always act with greater care.