While the President in an earlier interview appeared defiant and seemingly unaware of any wrongdoing on his part, the later address at almost midnight, admitted to some ‘mistakes’ but only because “he is human”. The Constitutional Court in the Nkandla matter certainly viewed such ‘mistakes’ in a serious light, holding that: “…an order will thus be made that the President’s failure to comply with the remedial action taken against him by the Public Protector is inconsistent with his obligations to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic; to comply with the remedial action taken by the Public Protector; and the duty to assist and protect the office of the Public Protector to ensure its independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness”. Consider too, that the State of Capture Report finds his name sprinkled liberally throughout. Contemplate further, the matter of the 18 charges and 783 counts of fraud, money laundering and racketeering, which are pending against him. These are hardly minor administrative errors for which human weakness can be blamed. This was indicative of wilful, unrepentant and unrelenting wrongdoing. Having sunk the nation’s highest office to such depths, South Africans now turn to the Acting President, Cyril Ramaphosa, to remind him that he must “uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law”, and also “promote the unity of the nation and that which will advance the Republic”.

Statistics South Africa’s (Stats SA) latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey reports an unemployment rate of 26.7%. Ratings agencies are circling the nation’s largest state-owned enterprises, affected by ‘state capture’. Crime rates are soaring, as are social ills such as illegal drug use. Social cohesion is on tenterhooks. Now, more than ever, does South Africa require a President solely focused on steering the country back onto the right course, without the distraction of fending off a probable prison term.

While politically, the governing party could have done more with regard to taking the country into its confidence during the protracted ‘recall process’, one should, at the very least, commend the peaceful handover of office. With President Zuma’s resignation, the country is well-placed on the path to achieving key constitutional goals, including upholding the Rule of Law.

By Ms Phephelaphi Dube: Director, Centre for Constitutional Rights
15 February 2018