“The Constitutional Court holds that there can be no doubt that Mr. Zuma is in contempt of court,” Sisi Khampepe.
- Beacon of democracy in Africa.
- Independent judiciary.
- Transparency and rule of law.
On Tuesday, June 29, 2021, the acting Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe of South African Constitutional Court made history. This is the highest court in the land.
On that day, she did what could be described as an abomination in African political and legal history. Jacob Zuma, the fourth democratically elected President of the Republic of South Africa, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court.
Mr. Zuma had refused to appear at the commission of inquiry investigating corruption charges against his government. Rather than appearing at the inquiry, President Zuma, “elected instead to make provocative, unmeritorious, and vituperative statements that constituted a calculated effort to impugn the integrity of the judiciary,” the acting Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe said.
By this ruling, south Africa has shown that it is the beacon of democracy in Africa. The country upholds independence of judiciary, rule of law, and transparency.
The ruling continued, “The Constitutional Court holds that there can be no doubt that Mr. Zuma is in contempt of court. The former President was served with the order and it is impossible to conclude anything other than he was unequivocally aware of what it required of him,” Justice Khampepe said.
This is impossible in many African countries including Nigeria. In Nigeria, the children of Justice Sisi Khampepe would have been motherless by now. Her action would be seen as the worst form of audacity for somebody of her legal status. It would cause her death and nothing would happen. This is why Nelson Madiba Mandela described Nigeria as “big for nothing”.
In Nigeria, the president is bigger than the country. He owns the legislature, the judiciary, police, military, electoral body, anti-graph agency, etc. He enjoys immunity and impunity both within and without office.
Buhari is both the president and Minister of Petroleum. He is in charge of the major source of revenue to the country. Yet, his Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, appeared on the BBC program, Hardtalk, recently and claimed that Nigeria now makes 55% of its GDP from non-oil sector. If this is true, President Buhari would have relinquished the portfolio.
It should be recalled that one of the charges brought against President Zuma was interference in court proceedings and manipulation in the appointment of his cabinet. In Nigeria, this undemocratic attitude is a sign of strong leadership.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently appointed a known Islamic jihadist into his federal cabinet. In spite of the strong national outcry against the appointment, he remained resolute and refused to bulge. The fellow is still a federal minister in the country, entrusted with a very important portfolio.
President Buhari will not tolerate a minister in his cabinet who will be loyal to the country and not first to him. Right now in Nigeria, every state governor is being forced to join his ruling party. This is to make election rigging easy and to ensure victory in the future elections. Whoever refuses to join his party will be implicated in a corruption charge and handed over to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. This is a vendetta federal agency that is neither useful to the country nor to anybody.
Independence of the judiciary was among the criteria used to select members of G-20. Nigeria was woefully found wanting in this critical domain.
Both African and global leaders, especially the latter, should support South Africa in its march to create and uphold strong democratic values. The continent needs a model that it can look up to. Any continent without a democratic and development model can hardly move ahead especially in today’s globalized economy.
It should be remarked that Justice Sisi Virginia Khampepe was appointed Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa by President Jacob Zuma. When will Nigeria attain this level of patriotism and political maturity?