In every life, there comes a day of reckoning – a time when unsettled scores demand retribution, and our own lies and transgressions are finally laid bare.
A belief in a day of reckoning will keep one on the straight and narrow. In life, people will take you at your own reckoning. To sensible people, every day is a day of reckoning.
There is a time of reckoning in all our lives.
In Isaiah 10:3, a question is posed to us: “What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?”
The time comes when one is called to account for one’s actions, to pay one’s debts, or to fulfill one’s promises or obligations.
When time comes for one to account for their deeds while in public office, there’s no exception. There’s nothing like ‘this one was humble’ or ‘nimwana wa mulungu’.
Time of reckoning comes for every leader who abuses the people’s trust and public resources for their own gain. Jacob Zuma is today in the dock! Zuma never thought such a time would come. There he is now – humiliated, humbled, looking like a soaked chicken because he failed to do the right thing while in office.
Zuma appeared in court to face corruption charges relating to a multibillion-dollar arms deal that took place 20 years ago.
Zuma’s nine years in office were marked by multiple corruption scandals.
The case against Zuma centres on 783 individual payments from his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who was jailed for corruption in relation to the arms deal.
Charges against Zuma were filed but then set aside by the National Prosecuting Authority shortly before he successfully ran for president in 2009. The charges were reinstated in 2016. A summons was issued to Zuma within weeks of his ouster.
Since his election nine years ago, Zuma’s opponents have fought a lengthy legal battle to have the charges reinstated.
The reality is that Zuma could find himself in jail.
But Zuma is saying, “I have never seen it before where someone is charged with a crime, those charges are dropped and then years later those same charges are re-instated. This is a just a political conspiracy.”
Why is the trial of Zuma significant?
Zuma’s appearing in court on corruption charges is hugely symbolic for South Africa’s young democracy.
Many see it as an era of impunity coming to an end.
The ANC which used to defend and protect Zuma today is steering clear of him.
And last week, former South Korean president Park Geun-hye was sentenced to 24 years in prison for abuse of power and corruption, in a scandal that exposed webs of double-dealing between political leaders and conglomerates, and the power of a Rasputin-like figure at the top of government.
Park had a litany of charges against her that ranged from corruption to maintaining a blacklist of artists.
Prosecutors had sought a 30-year jail sentence and an £80m fine on charges that also included bribery and coercion.
The court found Park had colluded with her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil to solicit bribes from South Korean conglomerates, including Samsung and the retail company Lotte in exchange for policy favours. Prosecutors charged Park with 18 separate crimes and accused her of working with Choi in taking bribes of at least £25m and pressuring companies to fund nonprofits run by Choi’s family. She was also accused of leaking classified information.
The scandal exposed what has long been widely suspected in South Korea: an entangled web of government and the chaebol – sprawling business conglomerates that dominate the economy.
Choi was jailed for 20 years for using her influence to gain favour and enrich herself, and the heads of Samsung and Lotte were both given shorter prison sentences.
We hope Edgar Lungu and his league can learn something from these happenings.
We also hope that these cases are teaching us that no one should be placed above the law. And it is our collective duty to ensure accountability in public office.
There is an aphorism, generally attributed to Lord Acton, which states:
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
When it comes to abuse of power, this statement seems particularly applicable. Most of us, when we see or experience abuse, just leave, extricating ourselves from a difficult, toxic situation. Maybe that’s the best thing to do, but maybe it isn’t.
Although we may not be able to change the outcome, we may be changed when we take a stand and say, ‘This is wrong, and I won’t be part of it.’
It’s what “good” men and women do, and that’s what we want to be – good men and women who will not stand idly by and allow evil to triumph.