The South African Council of Churches (SACC) has criticised former president Jacob Zuma’s decision not to co-operate with the commission of inquiry into state capture, in defiance of a ruling by the Constitutional Court.
The council said in a statement on Thursday it was deeply concerned about the possible implications of Zuma’s decision.
“Mr Zuma claims that the law has been applied differently for him in what he refers to as the ‘Zuma agenda’. South Africans have heard from witnesses at the Zondo commission, and at the very least, they require a response from Mr Zuma and his lawyers.
“It is about Mr Zuma to give the evidence and not leave without a response. It has nothing to do with the person of deputy chief justice [Raymond] Zondo. We still hope Mr Zuma will change his mind, for his sake and our sake, to use the opportunity afforded by the commission to explain himself,” said the council.
It said evidence from witnesses who testified at the commission would leave a permanent perception of Zuma’s involvement in corrupt activities against the state.
“His declaration of defiance against the commission is disappointing and regrettable for the people of SA.
“We are deeply concerned about where this might go and the possible dent in our national reconciliation journey, as well as respect for the law. Mr Zuma is an immediate past head of state and government, as well as the immediate past leader of the governing party.
“His actions have an immediate and significant import arising from his very recent and residual hold on emotional political power.”
The SACC said though Zuma had the right to make his own decisions about dealing with what he perceived as injustice, defiance of the commission in the manner he did was illegal.
“Any South African acting like this would face serious consequences. Thus nobody should act in an illegal manner, and say, ‘If this stance is considered a violation of their law, then let their law take its course.’
“As South African churches we are very concerned about the expression ‘their law’, in Mr Zuma’s statement. This is the immediate past president of the republic – the executive authority whose signature has for almost a decade confirmed all our law in the republic.”
Zuma could not be outside the law and make it “their law” because nobody was above the law of the land.
“When he refers to South African law as ‘their law’ — those with whom he is at odds — he in one phrase polarises the country into an ‘us and them’, a destabilising approach that can easily lead to polarisation and conflict in South African communities,” added the council.
“We believe that there are other options that may be open to Mr Zuma, that the SACC would be willing to help explore with him as part of our appeal that, whatever route he takes, must not result in harmful results for SA and its millions of ordinary citizens.”