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By Sydney Majoko


Former presidents (including Zuma) have a duty to behave better

The economy cannot have been damaged to the extent it was and hundreds of lives lost only for a former president to say ‘thank you to everyone who supported me during the riots’.

On Saturday, an 80-year-old former president of South Africa hosted a press conference at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton and used the opportunity to “expose” Cyril Ramaphosa as a corrupt president who has broken his oath of office.

He went on to characterise the recently concluded Commission of Inquiry into State Capture as a creation designed specifically to target him.

Sadly, former president Zuma might be right on both counts.

President Cyril Ramaphosa may have broken his oath of office if he conducted private business for profit while in office.

But, equally, the man from Nkandla is absolutely right that the commission targeted him.

If he was the man at the centre of state capture, where else would the commission have looked for its main target?

The two-hour rant at the Maslow must be seen for what it is – another attempt at sanitising his image by a former president who allowed state institutions to be captured for the benefit of a connected few.

The media conference with his legal team and usual coterie of supporters was postponed from Friday to Saturday without much of an explanation.

His press conference – labelled “President Zuma’s address to the nation” by his foundation’s spokesperson, Mzwanele Manyi – only made sense on Sunday when the current president’s address to the nation was announced.

ALSO SEE: ANC KZN comes to Ramaphosa’s defence after scathing comments from ex-presidents

Motives must be investigated

Ramaphosa’s address to the nation focused on what the state was doing to implement the commission’s recommendations.

Clearly, someone among the current president’s staff tipped off the former president or his staff about Ramaphosa’s forthcoming address to the nation.

There is no law that prohibits an octogenarian from calling a press conference, but if that octogenarian presided over this country’s destructive years, post-apartheid, then his motives need to be investigated.

It is widely accepted that the former president has thrown everything at the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) efforts to hold him accountable for the alleged corruption acts he committed two decades ago.

His Stalingrad legal defence has seen him bring the prosecutor on his corruption case to court.

It has seen his defence team prosecute journalist Karyn Maughan for “disclosing” details of his medical condition that got him out of jail before serving his full sentence.

It is important that if he mocks institutions that were set up constitutionally, like the commission, the record is set straight.

Equally, there is a need to challenge the ruling party’s mentality that two wrongs can make a right.

ALSO READ: Pot and kettle: Jacob Zuma blasted ‘corrupt and treasonous’ Ramaphosa

Zuma’s magnification of Ramaphosa’s blunders, such as the Phala Phala Farm scandal, does not and should not shield the former president from scrutiny into his role during state capture.

Eighty-year-olds can be as politically active as they want to be but if this means praising people who brought the country to its knees during the July riots, they must be called out.

The economy cannot have been damaged to the extent it was, and hundreds of lives were lost only for a former president to say “thank you to everyone who supported me during the riots”.

Former presidents have a duty to behave better.

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Cyril Ramaphosa Jacob Zuma Phala Phala Farmgate