The ANC has defended president Jacob Zuma by saying that he is not the first president of Democratic South Africa to be found by the apex court to have acted inconsistently with the constitution.
The ruling party noted that both Thabo Mbeki, and Nelson Mandela, were both found to have violated the Constitution during their presidential terms, adding that Zuma is not unsimilar to US president Barrack Obama who has been found approximately 12 times to have acted unconstitutionally in some of his decisions by that country’s apex court, the Supreme Court.
The ANC’s caucus in Parliament said in a statement on Wednesday that it welcomed the National Assembly’s dismissal of the DA’s motion to remove the president from office.
It stressed that whilst the Concourt found that the president has acted inconsistently with the constitution, the violation is not as provided for in the constitution’s Section 89(1) (a), which stresses “serious” violation of the constitution and warrants that the president be removed.
“The distinction in terms of the degree of constitutional violation is important,” it said in a statement.
The Concourt itself found that although the president acted inconsistently with the constitution, such was not done deliberately or maliciously as he “might have been following wrong legal advice and therefore acting in good faith”.
“Also important to note is the fact that, before the Concourt declared conclusively that the Public Protector’s remedial actions are binding, lower courts had held different opinions on the matter,” the ANC’s caucus in Parliament said.
It added that Zuma has committed before the court to fully implement the remedial actions of the Public Protector, which demonstrates absence of deliberate or malicious intention to act inconsistently with the constitution.
The ANC noted that in the 2009 Albutt case the Concourt upheld a decision interdicting (then) president, Thabo Mbeki, from granting pardons to perpetrators of political violence, because the exercise of the power to do so was not rationally related to its purpose.
In 2000, President Nelson Mandela was found by the Constitutional Court to have violated the Constitution – on the basis of acting irrationally – in the Pharmaceutical Companies Vs Mandela case.
“However, the degree of President Mandela’s constitutional violation, much the same as Presidents Mbeki and Zuma’s, did not warrant removal as specified in Section 89.
“In all these cases, the Concourt has recognised that the President can violate the Constitution despite acting in good faith and not to the degree stipulated in Section 89 – which amounts to “serious violation” and thus calls for removal,” the ANC said.
The ANC noted that in America, for instance, President Obama has been found approximately 12 times during his terms of office to have acted unconstitutionally in some of his decisions by the Supreme Court.
“However, in all those instances he was never impeached as his violations did not fall under Article II which stipulates types of transgressions justifying impeachment. Simply put, presidents the world over are often ruled to have acted unconstitutionally, but such does not automatically warrant impeachment or any other form of censure,” the ANC said.
“All of us have learned from these mistakes. The ANC never claims monopoly over wisdom, and through its age-old traditions of humility, self-correction, self-introspection and self-reflection, it will ensure that such mistakes do not recur,” it said.
“The president has humbled himself before the nation and extended a heartfelt apology. This takes the calibre of courage that is rare amongst many leaders of the world,” the ruling party said.