Let the Zuma judgment be the first of many to cancel corruption

Ideas

Let the Zuma judgment be the first of many to cancel corruption

Let it also be a lesson for children that impunity has no place in democracy, with accountability key to their futures

Columnist

South African schoolchildren learnt a big, new word on Tuesday: accountability. It means being responsible for your actions. It translates as aanspreelikheid in Afrikaans or ukumela in isiZulu and isiXhosa. The word seeps through every aspect of our culture from religion (“the wages of sin is death”) to everyday aphorisms (“spare the rod and spoil the child”).

For a long time we thought accountability only applied to ordinary people, not to those with money, fame or political capital, like former presidents. Until on Tuesday, when the highest court in the land sentenced former president Jacob Zuma to 15 months in prison for contempt of court, given as “a direct, unsuspended order of imprisonment”. That is the cold klap of accountability in winter and man, it stings.

Everybody is in shock. On our beloved African continent presidents do not go to jail. They loot, plunder, massacre and murder with (here’s another new word to teach the children this week) impunity. Some change their country’s constitutions to declare themselves president for life. One built himself a multimillion-dollar presidential castle while, another declared himself emperor. It is true, an African president had a Napoleon-style coronation that cost his country’s entire GDP. Another is reported to have died of a heart attack as he literally fucked himself into the afterlife with three prostitutes in his chambers as he experimented with Viagra. More than one African president has been rumoured to eat his people (here’s a third new word for the youngsters, cannibalism). Now and again the International Criminal Court (ICC) hauls one of these misfits to The Hague for prosecution. SA actually protected a presidential fugitive from justice when he came here in 2015...

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