As a consequence, Zuma argued, South Africa does not have a democratic system based on majority rule
FORMER president Jacob Zuma’s recent comments on state capture and our constitutional democracy should worry all of us as a nation, in particular the ANC, his political home.
Zuma told students at the Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha that it was MPs in the Constitutional Assembly who made South Africa a constitutional democracy instead of a parliamentary democracy.
As a consequence, Zuma argued, South Africa does not have a democratic system based on majority rule.
Zuma lamented how he and his party, the ANC, would take decisions in Parliament only to be taken to the Constitutional Court by an NGO and be overturned.
For Zuma, this is not the kind of a democracy the ANC fought for, but was the product of men and women in the Constitutional Assembly, which was chaired by current President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma’s views on the country’s political order are not only ahistorical, but they underscore his disastrous tenure at the Union Buildings.
For example, the ANC’s 1991 “Constitutional principles for a democratic South Africa” document states that there shall be an independent judiciary responsible for the interpretation of the Constitution and application of the law of the land.
The document further states that the judicial power would include power to review and set aside legislation and actions that are unconstitutional, and that a Constitutional Court shall be set up.
There are many other examples of how the ANC embraced a constitutional democracy before negotiations.
The current Constitution, which came into force in 1997, has checks and balances that prevent abuse of power by both the executive and Parliament – which was the order of the day during apartheid.
Zuma’s comments in Mthatha may help us understand his run-ins with the Constitution during his tenure as president and, perhaps, shed some light on how we ended up in this era of state capture, which he believes doesn’t exist.
The unequivocal message we should send to Zuma is: we appreciate the wisdom of the forebears of our democracy in ensuring that we have a constitutional democracy instead of his dictatorial parliamentary democracy, which would have driven us into deeper trouble than we are in now.