The Chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly, Cyril Ramaphosa, when presenting the draft Constitution of SA to the National Assembly on 8th May 1996 for MP’s to vote on, said:
“It (the Constitution) proclaims to the world that we are a society committed to democracy, to the rule of law and the protection of human rights…….This constitution also creates a framework for sound and effective government in South Africa. It is good for investors, and it is also good for the rand.”
On 1 February 2021, 25 years after leading a process to negotiate a globally respected constitution, President Cyril Ramaphosa faces a constitutional and legal crisis. This is because his immediate predecessor, Jacob Zuma, said after the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the Zondo Commission that Zuma must abide by a summons to appear before the commission: “It is clear that the laws of this country are politicised even at the highest court in the land.”
Our constitutional democracy and the rule of law are under severe threat when an ex-President defies the ruling of the highest court in the land.
Jacob Zuma has issued a statement saying he will defy this ruling.
If , as a country, we fail to act against such blatant violation of a decision by the highest court, we send a message that we have neither a political nor economic environment for investment in our country.
BUSA has consistently, for the last 3 years, emphasised the critical imperative to create an environment for much needed investment and growth in SA. Government has yet to make the necessary structural interventions to create such environment. This stance by ex-President Zuma will only serve to exacerbate investor anxieties and worsen the economic conditions for the exasperated population of SA.
The Constitutional Court ruled: “The former president’s conduct is a direct breach of the rule of law….In our system, no one is above the law. Even those who had the privilege of making laws are bound to respect and comply with those laws.”
We appeal to President Ramaphosa to act decisively by ensuring that the law takes its course. It is incumbent on ex-President Zuma to appear before the Zondo Commission, as directed by the Constitutional Court and guided by our globally respected constitution. The law must be applied to its fullest in the event ex-President Zuma defies the court’s ruling, as his statement suggests.
We also appeal to the ANC to act urgently and unequivocally against ex-President Zuma to instil confidence in citizens that the majority party respects the constitution and insists its members abide by the rulings of the Constitutional Court.
Our constitution, read with the Bill of Rights, directs that we must enable improvements in the living conditions of all our people. The only way in which this can be done is through sustained and inclusive socio-economic growth, made possible by increased investment from local and global investors.
Ex-President Zuma’s conduct exacerbates an already difficult investment climate. We cannot, as a country, tolerate the illegal actions of one individual that impacts negatively on millions of our people!
Sipho M Pityana
President of Business Unity South Africa