JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – Nearly three years ago, South African investigators were discovering a web of corruption around former president, Jacob Zuma, in a public investigation that took over the country.
There were bribes I paid for high-shelf whiskey, luxury cars and A Louis Vuitton bag filled with cash. Top officials distributed lucrative government contracts in exchange for monthly grants. That era of graft drained tens of billions of dollars from state coffers and became one of the most famous chapters in post-apartheid South African history.
Now, the nation’s highest court will determine whether Mr Zuma can be held accountable for the contempt of the court, and for an era of unfailing corruption, in a hearing that marks one of the greatest tests for South Africa’s democratic institutions in recent years.
“This is a very critical moment: the principle that all people will be equal before the law is challenged and the constitutional order itself is challenged,” said William Gomed, Chairman of the Board of Directors. Democracy Business Foundation, Which is a non-profit group in South Africa. “Basically, the former president says he is above the law of the country, he is above the constitution, and it cannot be touched.”
The hearing before the Constitutional Court on Thursday comes a month later Mr. Zuma challenged a court order To appear before corruption investigators, It was a move that challenged the legitimacy of the legal system in South Africa and prompted the chief investigator to demand that Mr. Zuma be imprisoned for two years on charges of contempt of court.
The Constitutional Court is unlikely to impose such a harsh ruling when announcing the ruling in the coming weeks. Doing so could spark mass protests by supporters of Mr. Zuma and destabilize the country as it is The worst outbreak of the Coronavirus On the continent, an economy hit by the epidemic and record unemployment.
However, the hearing itself is seen as an important moment for South Africa, which has been plagued with corruption over the past decade, with only a handful of officials held accountable.
The case also shed light on the challenges facing the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela that has ruled the country since the end of apartheid in 1994. During Mr. Zuma’s nine-year tenure, Corruption scandals drained the party Mismanaged her image and angered public opinion.
After, after Mr. Zuma is removed from the presidency In 2018, the ANC became increasingly polarized among loyalists to the former president and supporters of his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, who pledged to quell corruption and restore public confidence.
Fierce resistance to Mr. Ramaphosa’s efforts from within the ANC raised serious doubts about his ability to fulfill this promise.
But analysts say Thursday’s Supreme Court hearing could be the start of a turning point. Not only does Mr. Zuma face a possible prison sentence from the result, but he will also be sentenced in May for it He claims he took bribes From Gunsmiths in the 1990s.
He said, “For 15 years or more, Jacob Zuma has been using the power of the South African court system to delay his day in court” by appealing the cases against him, Richard Calland, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Cape Town. But he’s now out of the legal runway. This is the moment he finally meets Butterloo legally. ”
Mr. Zuma denied all allegations made in both cases. In recent months, the head of the corruption investigation, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has also been accused of harboring a personal vendetta against him, and he has attacked the investigation itself.
Established in 2018, the investigation is known as State Seizure Committee, A term that has become a buzzword in South Africa and denotes corruption at such a high level that private groups have effectively bought the power to divert state resources into their hands.
So now the commission has it Interviews with more than 250 witnesses In the televised hearings that have become a kind of televsion about the deep-seated corruption in the country. It is expected to finish in June, and to submit a report to South African officials that could include proposals for a trial.
Taken together, the testimonies paint a compelling picture of post-apartheid South Africa where relations between former business and government freedom fighters have turned into criminal enterprises and elites have manipulated efforts to shift economic power from the country’s white minority to black South Africa to suit them. Private pockets.
At least 40 witnesses directly implicated Mr. Zuma in arrangements to plunder tens of millions of dollars from state corporations. In total, it was estimated at $ 33 billion Looted from the state coffers During his tenure, which ended in 2018, amid popular anger over graft and bitter infighting within the ruling party.