Statement of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki,
at the Joint Sitting of Parliament on the Release of Hon Jacob Zuma from his Responsibilities
as Deputy President: National Assembly, 14 June 2005.
of the National Council of Provinces;
Fellow South Africans:
days ago we assembled in this Chamber to pay tribute to Justice Arthur Chaskalson
and the new leaders of our judiciary, Chief Justice Pius Langa and Deputy Chief
Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
I wish to thank Madame Speaker, the Chairperson
of the National Council of Provinces, leaders of all parties in Parliament and
Honourable Members for the opportunity we all had to give expression to the profound
esteem in which we hold our judiciary, as an important arm of our system of government
and a central pillar of our statehood.
I am therefore greatly obliged to
our Presiding Officers and the Honourable Members for giving me this opportunity
to address another Joint Sitting of the Houses of Parliament so soon after we
met in this form.
It was my view that we should once more assemble in this
manner because of a matter that relates to the common sentiment we all articulated
during the unique and pioneering occasion last Friday.
As Honourable Members
would know, the primary function of the President of the Republic and the Executive
is to regulate the nation's affairs in a manner that promotes the realisation
of the ideals enshrined in our Constitution. Among others these include:
building a society based on democratic values, social justice and human rights;
· ensuring that government is based on the will of the people and that
every citizen is equally protected by law;
· improving the quality
of life of all citizens; and
· building a united and democratic society
enjoying its rightful place among nations of the world.
I believe that the
Executive should at all times position itself diligently to discharge these responsibilities
unencumbered by major distractions and deficiencies that might diminish this focus.
It was for this reason that during the Debate on the Vote of the Presidency, I
paid particular attention to the work we are doing to improve the capacity of
government to meet its obligations to the people.
The Constitution enjoins
the President in particular to "uphold, defend and respect the Constitution
as the supreme law of the Republic; and promote the unity of the nation and that
which will advance the Republic". It further prescribes that all spheres
of government and all organs of state should "respect the constitutional
status, institutions, powers and functions of government in the other spheres."
Among others, and relevant to the reason I requested this Joint Sitting,
the Executive must discharge its responsibilities within the context of the rule
of law, which includes respect for the integrity and independence of the judiciary
and presumption of innocence of any person, pending findings of the courts. Similarly,
we also have to respect decisions of our Parliament.
are expressly reflected as personal undertakings and are immanent in the Oath
of Office for those taking up executive positions in government. They are especially
important with regard to the President of the Republic, who, in terms of our Constitution,
is the head of the National Executive and on whom the executive authority of the
Republic is vested.
Shortly before I left for Chile last week on a state
visit, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) announced that
on my return I would study the judgement handed down by the Hon Mr Justice Squires
of the Durban High Court at the end of the case of The State vs Schabir Shaik
and Others, and announce such decisions as may be necessary arising from this
I have since carefully studied the Judgement. I did this fully
to inform myself about Justice Squires' findings, given the fact that the issue
of the relationship between the Deputy President, the Honourable Jacob Zuma, and
the accused had been canvassed during the trial.
In this regard, I must
emphasise that I studied this Judgement not to make any determination whatsoever
about its merits or demerits, about whether it was wholly or partially right or
wrong. Indeed, such conduct does not fall within our constitutional mandate as
the Executive. This task belongs to the higher courts, the organs of state that
would hear any appeal that might be lodged.
Accordingly, any actions we
may take arising out of Justice Squires' Judgement would arise merely from the
fact that a court judgement exists, which our Constitution enjoins us to respect.
As Honourable Members would know, the judgement contains detailed matters
of fact and inference against which penalties have been meted out. At the same
time, proceedings pertaining to a possible appeal to higher courts are still pending.
However, the Judgement contains some categorical outcomes.
These are that
the court has made findings against the accused and at the same time pronounced
on how these matters relate to our Deputy President, the Hon Jacob Zuma, raising
questions of conduct that would be inconsistent with expectations that attend
those who hold public office.
In this regard, I would like to emphasise
two basic pillars of our jurisprudence, namely, equality before the law and the
right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
We are of the firm
view that this principle applies to the Deputy President not merely as a matter
of principle and common decency, but also in deference to the individual occupying
such office and the service that he has rendered to the Republic and its people
before and after the attainment of our liberation. Unambiguous as the judgement
may be about an assumed unsavoury relationship, the Deputy President has yet to
have his day in court.
Also, noting the fact that there are processes underway
to lodge an appeal, we are obliged to allow the steady grind of the due process
of law to run its course without let or hindrance, respecting the provisions of
our Constitution in this regard.
As we reflect
on these matters, we should also remind ourselves of the major issues, which were
the original source of this trial.
Some three and half years ago, the Joint
Investigation Team of the Auditor-General, the Public Protector and the National
Directorate of Public Prosecutions completed its work and released to Parliament
a report on the Defence Procurement Process. This Team came to the conclusion
"No evidence was found of any improper or unlawful conduct by
the Government. The irregularities and improprieties
point to the conduct
of certain officials of the government departments involved and cannot
be ascribed to the President or the Ministers involved in their capacity as members
of the Ministers' Committee or Cabinet. There are therefore no grounds to suggest
that the Government's contracting position is flawed".
to matters of the cost of the Procurement, the Investigation Team concluded that:
was achieved by the Affordability Team and the International Offers Negotiating
is unprecedented in the international credit market".
each of the allegations of impropriety with regard to the primary contracts, in
which government played a pivotal role, the investigators found that there were
cogent technical and/or strategic reasons behind the decisions taken.
Team identified some weaknesses in the procurement process, and made recommendations
which are being followed up, the better in this regard continually to improve
our work as government.
It also called for investigations on matters pertaining
to secondary contracts, in which, though government may have formally played a
role to ensure reliability and cost-effectiveness, the arrangements were essentially
between the companies chosen as primary contractors and third party corporate
We refer to this matter in some detail because we believe
that it behoves all of us to recognise that the investigations that resulted in
the court case that has just been concluded were not only recommended in that
Joint Investigation Team Report, but were also supported by the whole of government,
including the Hon Deputy President.
These further investigations do not
contradict the fundamental conclusion about the integrity of the decisions of
the government with regard to the Defence Procurement.
No facts were adduced
during the trial in question and no findings were made that are inconsistent with
the Report that the Joint Investigation Team submitted to Parliament, a report
whose recommendations the government accepted.
said all this, it remains for us to answer the question as to how we should respond
to some of the issues raised in the Judgement handed down by Justice Squires.
seems self-evident that, arising out of the judgement in the Durban Trial, there
will be continuing legal processes in the higher courts. These processes will
have a bearing on normal enquiries that the law-enforcement agencies may wish
to undertake and on follow up that Parliament may embark on in relation to any
of its Members.
The Executive will therefore await the outcome of these
Both the Deputy President and I are acutely sensitive to the
responsibilities we bear as prescribed by our Constitution. We understand very
well that we should at all times act in a manner that seeks to "uphold, defend
and respect the Constitution", as required by the same Constitution.
I have already indicated, this includes, among other things, the need to "respect
the constitutional status, institutions, powers and functions of government in
the other spheres", to quote the Constitution once again.
We have had
no precedent to guide us as we considered our response to the Judgement by Justice
Squires. We have therefore had to make our own original determination on this
matter guided by what we believe is in the best interest of the Honourable Deputy
President, the Government, our young democratic system, and our country.
am fully conscious of the fact that the accused in the Schabir Schaik case have
given notice of their intention to lodge an appeal. I am equally aware that a
superior court may overturn the Judgement handed down by Justice Squires.
as President of the Republic I have come to the conclusion that the circumstances
dictate that in the interest of the Honourable Deputy President, the Government,
our young democratic system, and our country, it would be best to release the
Hon Jacob Zuma from his responsibilities as Deputy President of the Republic and
Member of the Cabinet.
Necessarily, we will continue to monitor and respond
to all developments in relation to this and other relevant legal processes.
I continue to hold the Hon Jacob Zuma in high regard, and I am convinced that
this applies to most Members of Parliament. We have worked together under difficult
and challenging conditions for thirty years. In this regard, I wish to thank him
for the service that he has rendered as part of the Executive, at national and
provincial levels, sparing neither strength nor effort to ensure that, with each
passing day, we build a better life for all South Africans.
I am certain
that I speak on behalf of all who have served with him in Cabinet when I say that
we shall remain friends, colleagues and comrades in the service of the people.
And, as government, we shall continue to draw on his experience and expertise
where the need arises.
In due course, I shall announce the necessary changes
in the Executive to take account of the void that the departure of Deputy President
Jacob Zuma has created.
I thank the Honourable Members for their presence
at this Joint Sitting of the Houses of Parliament and for the attention they paid
to what we had to say to address a difficult situation.
I trust that what
we have done today, and will do in future, together, will continue to strengthen
our democracy, reinforce the accountability of those who hold public office, and
deepen the confidence of the masses of our people in their elected representatives
and our organs of state.
I thank you.