With the arrest of Jacob Zuma still up in the air, and concerns mounting over the integrity of South Africa’s Constitutional fortitude, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen has demanded that Parliament act to prevent a national crisis and compel Police Minister Bheki Cele to put the former President in handcuffs.

He said that President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to at last “come out of hiding” and weigh in on Zuma’s defiance of the Constitutional Court’s order, and said the time for “appeasement and conciliation between warring ANC factions has come and gone”. 

Steenhuisen calls for Parliament to debate Zuma sentencing  

In a statement released on Wednesday 7 July, Steenhuisen announced the he has written to National Assembly speaker Thandie Modise urging her to reconvene Parliament for a debate of “urgent national public importance on the unfolding constitutional crisis around the sentencing of former President Jacob Zuma”.

“The deadline for Mr Zuma to hand himself over has long come and gone, and there is no legal basis for the South African Police Service not to arrest him,” he said, “And yet both the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, and the National Police Commissioner, General Khehla Sithole, have stated that they do not intend to arrest him until he has exhausted his frivolous legal strategy, or until they are ordered to do so by the Constitutional Court.”

Cele said on Monday that he requires “further clarity” on the Constitutional Court’s order to arrest Zuma for contempt of court and condemn him to the 15-month direct imprisonment he has been sentenced to. Steenhuisen said that this approach from Cele is “utterly bizarre”. 

“His obligations, in terms of the law and the court’s instruction, could not be any clearer,” he said. 

Cele’s ‘defiance’ of order ‘utterly bizarre’  

Steenhuisen said that Cele’s “defiance” of the order to arrest Zuma has placed South Africa’s democracy “before a crossroads”. 

“What is at stake here are the principles of the Rule of Law and the primacy of our Constitution, on which our democracy was founded. It is critical that we re-affirm our commitment to upholding these principles, and this needs to start in the National Assembly.”

He said that a debate around the mounting Constitutional crisis should tackle the failed efforts of the ANC to hold its Executive members to account. 

“Each of the 400 members of the National Assembly swore an oath to serve the people of our country, and we need to start honouring that oath,” he said, adding that President Cyril Ramaphosa urgently needs to add his voice to the issue after having opted to remain silent throughout the stunning events of the past week. 

“It is unthinkable that the leader of a country can go missing at a time like this. He needs to step up and speak out in defence of our Constitution and in defence of our independent judiciary, which finds itself increasingly under attack from elements within his own party. His ongoing silence emboldens those elements and will make it harder for us to claw back lost ground,” said Steenhuisen. 

“The President also needs to state, unambiguously, where he stands on upholding the Rule of Law when it comes to the lockdown regulations he himself announced. The impunity with which Zuma’s supporters flouted these regulations this past week at Nkandla – along with similar displays by supporters of Ace Magashule and Julius Malema in recent weeks – sends the message to ordinary South Africans that the rules only apply to them and not those allied to South Africa’s “Big Man” politicians.”

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Presh JM Reporter

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