South Africa is in a crisis. And it is not surprising that the courts are habitually asked to provide rationality tests because we are a law-governed society.
So said Thabo Mbeki when speaking to media earlier this morning before the launch of National Foundations Dialogue in Parktown, Johannesburg.
Speaking to Aldrin Sampear of SABC, Mbeki cited the declining economy and “state capture” allegations among indications that the country is heading for a deeper crisis. When asked whether a judicial commission of inquiry must be instituted to get to the bottom of the allegations, Mbeki gave an unequivocal support for such a decision.
Mbeki said he saw no problem with the recommendation by former public protector Thuli Madonsela that the judge heading such a commission must be appointed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
“From what I remember when I was in government, a sitting president does not appoint a judge when instituting a commission of inquiry. You approach the chief justice and they avail a judge.”
Mbeki reiterated that what complicated that matter was that the president himself was a subject of an inquiry. He said it was correct for South Africans to take solace in the courts.
“A good example is the Constitutional Court decision on Nkandla,” he told SABC.
Mbeki told Sampear that he was not “ruling from the grave”. He said the issues he was raising were the same issues he warned ANC and the government prior to his sacking. “I also wrote to them later and raised the same issues.”
Mbeki told Xoli Mngambi of eNCA the primary reason for this dialogue was that “we are 23 years into our democracy, and as foundations, we thought that this is time for our people as a whole to engage one another in a discussion”.
“As a country we set ourselves targets in the constitution, which was an inclusive process,” he said.
When questioned on whether the biggest contributor to the current crisis was President Zuma, Mbeki gave his trademark diplomatic response on the matter. “De Klerk is correct to draw attention to the constitution. It spells out the role of government and the president. The Constitutional Court has also explained what constitutional democracy is through Nkandla Constitutional Court case.”
“Foundation did not say let us have a dialogue about Zuma,” he explained. He said the platform they were providing was also aimed at helping the country reach national consensus “on issues of mutual concern”.
Mbeki clarified to eNCA that he never said anything about MPs voting with their conscience. He said he was “reminding people what the Constitutional Court said about parliament”.
“Parliament should have had a discussion about itself … it failed to fulfill its obligations in terms of the constitution.”
He had wise words for ANC MPs on what to do during the vote of no confidence. “Members of parliament are elected to represent the people. You are send to parliament on electorate votes. The constitution says you are a representative of the people. He said during his time he allowed MPs to vote with their conscience during the termination-of-pregnancy bill vote.”