The thunderous indictment and sentencing of former South African president Jacob Zuma to 15 months behind bars has been received with mixed emotions the world over, but one message is supreme, that no one is above the law, local pundits say.
That country’s highest court at the weekend, however, agreed to hear Zuma’s challenge against his 15-month jail term.
Zuma’s sentencing, according to the analysts will also catapult the southern Africa region that has been gripped by corruption and where those in positions of power do as they please with impunity in the right direction.
Last week, Zuma was sentenced to 15 months direct imprisonment for contempt of court for refusing to appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, chaired by now acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Zuma appeared once before the commission in 2019 before refusing to ever appear again for as long as Zondo is chair. Zuma is supposed to answer allegations from scores of witnesses about his role in State Capture.
With a prison sentence now impending on one of the most powerful and revered politicians in southern Africa and a former statesman, it is clear that SADC must take a cue from the South African court, said Mesekameneko Tjituri, a legal expert.
To achieve this, however, the independence of government institutions’ systems and processes must be guaranteed.
The effective implementation of the supreme law of a given country is a key ingredient to a thriving democracy and stability of a nation.
“The rule of law in Namibia, and as it should be everywhere across the world and South Africa, presupposes that everyone is equal before the law in the truest and literal sense of the letter of the law.”
This should set a precedent for Namibia’s jurisprudence.
“In this way, the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) has set a precedent which we hope will be emulated by other similar institutions in the region and that is to enforce the rule of law without fear, favour and bias irrespective of the social, political and economic standing of a citizen,” Tjituri stressed.
Another legal mind Yarukeekuro Ndorokaze reverberated Tjituri’s sentiment, saying the ConCourt ruling buttresses the importance of separation of powers.
“The judiciary held firm and demonstrated that the citizens can rely on it to determine matters fairly, impartially and without fear,” said Ndorokaze.
It is an example that Namibia must emulate, he added.
Zuma’s judgment comes at a time when Namibian courts are seized with the Fishrot scandal, which has seen the country’s resources stolen at an industrial scale.
In this case, former Cabinet ministers, prominent business personalities and the ruling party are implicated.
“The ConCourt decision will certainly serve as persuasive authority in other jurisdictions such as Namibia. Particularly when a leader entrusted with protecting the law decides to completely disregard the very law, with so much impunity and public display,” Ndorokaze expounded.
For another lawyer and activist Stanley Kavetu, Zuma’s sentencing is instructive on the significance of summons and what is expected from those against whom summons are issued.
The importance of the decision to the Namibian jurisprudence is that the ConCourt placed a higher value and accountability on those who hold public office or positions of power.
“So members of parliament, ministers, presidents and former presidents, there is a heightened obligation on you to conduct yourself in a manner that protects the constitution and comply with court orders,” he said.