President Thabo Mbeki's decision to sack South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, after he was implicated in the corruption trial of Durban businessman Schabir Shaik, is a signal of South Africa's maturing democracy, says Transparency International (TI), the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption around the world.
"This is a watershed moment for South Africa. President Mbeki has sent a strong signal that he is committed to rooting out corruption," said Cobus de Swardt, global programmes director of Transparency International. "This decisive action sets an important precedent for the advancement of good governance for governments the world over."
The decision comes amid the unfolding dialogue on corruption and aid in Africa and the G8's decision to grant debt relief to countries that have met conditions of good governance. "This decision proves Mbeki's commitment to fight corruption in his own government and clearly shows that African leaders can push forward an anti-corruption agenda as laid out in the AU Convention against Corruption," said Dr Muzong Kodi, TI regional director for Africa and the Middle East. "Now is the time for South Africa to concretize their actions by ratifying and implementing the AU Convention."
That this landmark event was the result of a healthy, internally initiated judicial process is also good news for the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). This development plan, launched by African leaders four years ago and designed to kick-start the continent's economies, focuses heavily on issues of governance and relies on a peer-review mechanism, in which countries assess their neighbours' progress in fulfilling the initiative's criteria. Sustainable development for African countries is a high priority for the G8 Heads of State as well. In this vein, TI encourages them to strengthen their support for NEPAD.
It is now imperative that Zuma be given fair legal treatment and justice be allowed to follow its course unimpeded. According to Hassen Lorgat, Acting Chair of TI's chapter in South Africa, "It is encouraging to note that due process has been followed in line with South Africa's constitution and that governmental institutions have abided by the rule of law."
The Zuma case has rocked South Africa with opposition parties and the media demanding that the deputy president resign. Zuma has long been regarded as the most likely presidential successor when Mbeki's term expires in 2007.
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