SA is in a moment of deep crisis following the Constitutional Court’s judgment, and it would be in the country’s best interests for President Jacob Zuma to step down, former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel has said.
“When I look at the Constitution, I know that it was [former] ANC President Oliver Tambo who put all of this in place and it is for that reason that the Constitution echoes the traditions of the ANC and the Freedom Charter as strongly as it does,” Manuel said in an interview with Tim Modise on Soweto TV on Tuesday.
“This week was the 27th anniversary of the judicial murder of [Umkhonto we Sizwe operative] Solomon Mahlangu. How do we honour him when the court has to remind us that we have a responsibility to who we are and where we come from? I think it’s a very deep tragedy.”
Manuel, who is also a former Minister in the Presidency, was talking about the Constitutional Court’s ruling last week, which found that Zuma failed to uphold the Constitution when he did not comply with Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s remedial action regarding payment for the upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.
It ruled that the National Assembly also failed to uphold the Constitution when it set aside Madonsela’s report.
Manuel said SA was lucky that it had a good system of courts, but if democracy was going to function, it was largely about how the other two arms of government worked.
“Does the Executive actually live out its responsibility to serve the people every single day and does the parliamentary system oversee that the Executive does? If that is working, you shouldn’t have the court in your face every single day,” he said.
Manuel said the current situation could not be compared with the time when former President Thabo Mbeki was recalled by the ANC.
There was now a broader and more resonant voice suggesting that this was not a minor political infringement, but the violation of the oath of office of the Head of State.
Manuel said he thought this was a “deep crisis”.
“I think it is in all of our interests that the President actually steps aside,” he said.
Calls for Zuma to step down have increased since the judgment and have come not only from opposition parties, but from ANC stalwarts such as Ahmed Kathrada and former generals of Umkhonto we Sizwe.
Manuel said Kathrada had communicated a strong message.
“It’s a humble message that says, ‘Mr President, please listen to the people and resign’. That voice is very strong… it’s the voice of the people who recognise the strength of the Constitution and value the decision of the Constitutional Court,” he said.
The same could be said for the MK generals.
“They recognise Jacob Zuma, Msholozi, coming from their ranks and they take a political view that, premised on the history of where we come from, you can’t just ignore these kind of things.”
Manuel said it was sad that the court had to remind Zuma to uphold his oath of office.