Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘The law is the law’, says Mbalula on Zuma, criticises ‘delinquent’ Mkhwebane

The ANC secretary-general says the pros and cons of the ruling on Zuma's parole needs to be evaluated.

African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Fikile Mbalula has suggested that the ruling party does not want to see former president Jacob Zuma back behind bars, but insisted that no person is above the law.

This week, the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) dismissed the Department of Correctional Services’ application for leave to appeal a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling, which found Zuma’s release on medical parole was unlawful.

ALSO READ: ‘Zuma must go to jail’ − Steenhuisen

The ConCourt’s judgment could see Zuma back in prison, two years after his initial arrest sparked widespread protests that saw more than 337 people killed.

It is now up to Correctional Services national commissioner, Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale, to decide whether the former president must return to the Estcourt Correctional Centre to complete his jail sentence.

Zuma was slapped with a 15-month sentence by the ConCourt in July 2021 for contempt after he refused to testify at the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.

‘Law is the law’

Speaking during a media briefing on Sunday, Mbalula stressed that the ANC respected the the rule of law.

“The moral perspective to this is that we empathise with [former] president Zuma… no one wants anyone at the age of 80 going to jail, but in this instance the law is the law,” he said.

The ANC secretary-general said government needed to weigh the pros and cons of the court’s ruling.

“We have heard voodoo lawyers here interpreting the judgment their own way [because some] say it doesn’t [Zuma] has to go to jail and others say he must.

READ MORE: Zuma’s Russia trip ‘plunges SA govt into deeper legal and political predicament’

“Government needs to look at all of those things [including] what is in the best interest of the country and what is the correct interpretation of the law,” Mbalula said.

“The ANC does not going around making out of turn remarks about judgments. We focus on the law and in this instance that’s what we are looking at.”

Mbalula’s comments come after Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema on Friday called for President Cyril Ramaphosa to give his predecessor a presidential pardon in order to avoid a repeat of the July 2021 riots.

‘Delinquent of law’

Mbalula also took a swipe at Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane following on the ConCourt’s decision to rule in favour of Ramaphosa regarding her suspension.

The apex court on Thursday found that there were “rational reasons” for the president to suspend Mkhwebane, partly because her absence in office did not block the Phala Phala investigations from continuing.

“[Former Public Protector] Thuli Madonsela’s decisions were criticised, but she could stand her ground in terms of the law. Mkhwebane [on the other hand] lost everything. She has just been proven beyond reasonable doubt as a delinquent of law.

“She’s being investigated by Parliament… [but] she is fighting there so maybe she could get her pension of R10 million and so on that’s why she wants [Section 194 chairperson Qubudile] Dyantyi gone,” Mbalula said in reference to Mkhwebane’s latest recusal application.

READ MORE: Mkhwebane: ‘I am one of the best ever, unfortunately they’re blinded by hatred’

He also criticised Mkhwebane for “campaigning and attacking” judges.

“Where have you seen an advocate like that? At the helm of the Public Protector’s office attacking judges. There is civility that governs lawyers [unlike] people who are in the streets. We have our own interpretation of the law so we can say anything because we don’t know the law,” he said.

“We don’t want a Public Protector like that… we want a sober Public Protector who can defend here decisions in the court of law.”

The ANC secretary-general further defended Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka, who has come under fire for her findings in the Phala Phala report.

“There’s no consequence to insult people without testing the law. We believe that judges and the Public Protector are not demi-gods [because] their decisions can be challenged and taken on review at any given point in time. That’s how the law functions.. it allows recourse within the system,” Mbalula added.

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