Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Barney Berates Zuma
For those who don't know him, Barney Pityana packs some serious punch in terms of his political credibility. Pityana is a theologian and human rights activist, founding member of the South African Students' Organisation, South African Human Rights Commission chairman and an important figure in the Black Consciousness Movement with Steve Biko. So when he criticises, people listen. This is what he had to say about Jacob Zuma yesterday:
"To many of us, Jacob Zuma, popularly elected by the branch delegates at Polokwane in December 2007, remains a flawed character in his moral conduct; he has been indicted for serious crimes that involve corruption and dishonesty.

"So far he does not encourage confidence in his understanding of policy, appearing as he does in the short-term to be making policy pronouncements on the hoof depending on who he wishes to appease at any one moment.

"We have seen the leader flip-flop on crucial matters of policy -- the death penalty; silence when his supporters mount a savage and uninformed attack on the judges, ostensibly with his concurrence; the dance of backstep on the reform of the labour market, and so on."

"Anyone aspiring to become a head of state must understand the obligation that binds one to honour the spirit and the letter of the Constitution, to order their personal conduct as if it is an open constitutional text [and] to internalise its precepts as binding on one's life."

This is true of judges, ministers of state and others who hold public office.

Failure to do so will discredit the Constitution and erode an essential seal binding the nation, holding it together and inspiring confidence.

"That is the reason South Africans should be very concerned when the ANC Youth League confronts the deputy president of the Constitutional Court about remarks he is reported to have made at a private function, and the sentiment about the integrity and independence of judges that is thrown up, the effect of which is clearly to intimidate the judiciary.

"That is the reason that as a people we should be worried, very worried, when the integrity of judges is being put under question without justification."

"We should equally be concerned when sitting judges appear to be behaving in a manner that is calculated to undermine the honour due to and status of judges."

"Malcolm Gladwell, writing about the manner in which New York City turned around the scourge of crime on the streets ... warns against normalising criminal conduct, or mainstreaming deviance such that leaders by their conduct 'give permission' to others to behave likewise."