30 March 2022: Douglas Gibson says President Ramaphosa’s first loyalty is to his career prospects.
There ought to be consequences for unacceptable behaviour by public figures paid out of the public purse. When that includes breaking an oath or solemn affirmation, the guilty person should pay a price.
The KZN premier, Sihle Zikalala, does not loom large in our country. But he is well known and influential in the province where he occupies such a high position.
He recently criticised the courts for “over-reach,” saying, “It is time we should debate whether the country does not need parliamentary democracy where laws enacted by Parliament should be above all and not reviewed by another organ…” It sounds like the Nirvana Jacob Zuma would have dreamed of having.
Zikalala wants to trash our Constitution and fatally undermine the Courts while reverting to the position we endured under the Apartheid government. The Courts were prohibited from ruling on laws, regulations or actions of government. Exactly the opposite of what happens in our constitutional democracy today.
He is an educated man with several university degrees; it cannot be his ignorance that has led him to ape the conduct of Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. She recently made a similar call – admittedly in much more extreme terms – insulting and denigrating black judges (“house negroes”) as well as undermining the Constitution she swore to uphold. Apart from expressions of disapproval, President Ramaphosa did nothing. There were no consequences for a minister that the president had appointed. On the basis of this recklessness, the lady is building her campaign to become the president of South Africa. And being allowed to get away with it.
Zikalala got the message: say and do what you like in pursuit of votes; break your oath of office; nothing will happen to you. Obviously busy collecting the votes of the disgraced and disgraceful RET faction in KZN and the approval of the EFF, he does not care what damage he does to our country. This, despite the amusing description in his biography – written by himself – “every one of his works is covered with a mantle of sacredness…” It is clear that he has a healthy opinion of himself and his works.
The important question to be asked is: “Does President Ramaphosa share the opinion that Zikalala’s works (and words) are sacred?” Is this premier untouchable, or will the president live up to his own oath of office and discipline his appointee for spitting on the Constitution of South Africa?
The president often proclaims himself to be shocked about something or other; rarely does he take the action he could and should do by living up to the task of upholding the Constitution entrusted to him by the people of this country. He seems always to have an eye on his own next party election. That seems to trump everything else. His predecessor, Jacob Zuma, proudly proclaimed that his first loyalty was to the ANC, before South Africa. One has come to suspect that Cyril Ramaphosa’s first loyalty is to his career prospects. He proved that during the years when he came out in support of the already tainted President Zuma and then sat quiet in the cabinet for years, waiting for his turn to become president.
Premier Sihle Zikalala deserves to be fired. Let’s see whether the president is man enough to fire him.
Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand.
This article first appeared in The Star