Roughly two weeks after Judge Squires of the Durban High Court found Shabir Shaik guilty of corruption and, by implication, found our Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, a party to a corrupt relationship (the full judgment is here), President Thabo Mbeki has announced his decision to "release" Zuma from his obligations as Deputy President and member of Parliament. This decision comes on the heels of recent remarks about the need to deal with corruption in government harshly and without hesitation.
IOL has a brief story about the President’s address to a joint sitting of Parliament about 40 minutes ago:
President Thabo Mbeki has relieved his deputy Jacob Zuma of his duties.
Mbeki made the announcement during a special joint sitting of the two houses of parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
"As president of the republic, I have come to the conclusion that the circumstances dictate that in the interest of the honorable deputy president, the government, our young democratic system and our country, it would be best to release the honorable Jacob Zuma from his responsibilities as deputy president of the republic and member of the cabinet," Mbeki told a joint sitting of parliament.
This came almost two weeks after Zuma was implicated in corruption during the Durban High Court trial of businessman Schabir Shaik, who acted as his financial advisor. – Sapa, Reuters and AFP
What is particularly important about this decision is the President’s reaffirmed respect for the independence of the judiciary and the fact that he did what he said he would – root out corruption in government. As reported by IOL recently:
Public sector corruption costs South Africa between R50-billion and R150-billion a year, an anti-corruption expert told the next leg of the Schabir Shaik case on Friday.
Hennie van Vuuren, from the Institute for Security Studies was called by the state to testify in aggravation of sentence for Schabir Shaik who was convicted on two counts of corruption and one of fraud on Thursday in connection with dealings related to the government’s arms deal and his relationship with Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
"Law is only as good as the willingness of the state to implement anti-corruption measures," Van Vuuren told the court which was still packed after Thursday’s judgment.
I didn’t vote for the African National Congress (the ruling party) in any of the elections since we became a democracy in 1994 and probably won’t ever vote for them but at the same time it does make me proud to watch a speech where the President declares his respect for the Constitution and acts accordingly. He could have kept Zuma on pending the finalisation of an investigation by the National Prosecution Authority but he made a decision which was best for the country and not just in Zuma’s interests.
Of course this decision now, more than before, exposes Zuma to possible prosecution down the line.
Next up will be an announcement by the President about the new Executive including the new Deputy President …