Jacob Zuma: A president accountable to no one

You’ve go to love the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). They are exactly what Parliament needs. They are by no means ready to lead South Africa but they are making the right noises. For the longest time the African National Congress (ANC) and the media portrayed EFF leader, Julius Malema, and his party as incompetent, foolish, brash and downright annoying. But they’re pushing all the right buttons by asking questions in Parliament that we want answers to.

Such as when President Jacob Zuma will “pay back the money”. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that the state spent taxpayers’ money – R246 million of it – to upgrade his Nkandla homestead. She also recommended that he pay back a portion of that amount because he and his family unduly benefited from the upgrade.

This was already a year ago. Initially, people were angry. They voiced their disgust and frustration in mainstream and social media because it seems like there is nowhere else to turn to. The Democratic Alliance (DA), in a usual self-righteous knee-jerk reaction to anything ANC, have started legal proceedings after the government’s Security Cluster said it plans to take Madonsela’s Nkandla report on judicial review.

Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko ruled that his boss, Zuma, need not pay back any of the R246 million because the “fire pool”, chicken kraal, visitor’s centre and amphitheatre were all necessary “security” features at Nkandla. And on the subject of the “fire pool”. Let’s call a spade a spade (or a pool a pool). That’s a pool his family will be dipping into in the coming summer months.

It’s great the that the DA has decided to take legal action. In a democratic society such as ours, all wrongs should go through the judicial system and justice will hopefully be served. But it will most likely become a lengthy drawn-out procedure, and we’re lucky if justice is served.

But along came the EFF and boldly decided to challenge the president head-on. Well, I wouldn’t even call it a “challenge”. It’s a simple question they’re asking, really. When will Zuma pay back the taxpayers’ money that was spent on his home? No matter how many times the question is put to him, he refuses to answer and his friend, National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete always tries to shut the red berets up.

It seems as though Zuma is unaccountable to Parliament and unaccountable to the public. There is nothing anyone can do to make him pay back our money. The EFF has been asking him to do so for the past year, and I hope they would not give up. I also hope the DA’s legal proceedings would yield some positive results. The ANC, and Zuma especially, did not expect to be nagged by the EFF. What Zuma and the rest of the ANC are hoping for is for us to forget about Nkandla and the R246 million. Because as usual, when something shocking is revealed we get angry, post angry tweets, write scathing articles, and that’s where it ends.

When Zuma’s corrupt financial advisor, Shabir Shaik, was released on medical parole in 2009 the public went into a frenzy. And rightfully so. Before 2012 medical parole, which falls under the Correctional Services Act, was for people in the final stages of their terminal illness so that they could “die a dignified and consolatory death”.

In 2012 the legislation was amended, and it now no longer contains the words “final stages”.

For a short while people were angry when Shaik was released, but they accepted it and soon we no longer heard about it (except for the occasional article about his golfing habits and his abuse of journalists).

In 2012, former national police commissioner, Jackie Selebi, was also released on medical parole. He was convicted of corruption in 2010. People were angry but that, too, they accepted because, let’s face it: there is nothing we can do.

I don’t mean acceptance by being okay with crime and corruption. I mean acceptance in that we’ve become used to the bad guys getting away with ripping us off in South Africa.

When news surfaced of the Secrecy Bill, again people were angry and took to Twitter. There were protests. But nothing came of it because, as much as we are a democracy, there is nothing that we, the people can do. It makes us angry because we feel powerless and betrayed. We feel like our voices are not heard, that government is riding roughshod over our concerns and that it has become too easy for corrupt officials to loot public coffers for personal gain.

There’s probably not much we’ll be able to do because I highly doubt we’ll see corrupt officials pay for their crimes. I doubt Zuma will pay back a cent or that corruption will magically vanish, especially from within the ANC. The problem is there are no consequences for their actions so I am pinning my hopes on what little democracy is left in SA. I hope against the evidence that opposition parties can hold the president to account. I hope that there can be a brighter, far less corrupt future for South Africa. I hope because that is all I can do until the evil men and women running South Africa are actually brought to justice.

Originally published here.

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