Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ BLOOMBERG/ SEONGJOON CHO
Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ BLOOMBERG/ SEONGJOON CHO

You could not ignore the eerie parallels: a head of state was subjected to a scathing judgment by a constitutional court over failure to honour the highest law of the land.

But there was one big difference between what happened to South Korean president Park Geun-hye and our very own President Jacob Zuma.

The South Korean court went all the way and booted her out of office while SA’s court left this decision to the ruling political party and parliament. So Zuma survived and Park Geun-hye walked the plank.

The outcomes aside, there are more striking parallels between the judgments. According to Reuters, South Korea’s acting chief judge Lee Jung-mi said Park violated the constitution and ignored parliament and the press; concealed the truth and cracked down on critics.

The blunt conclusion was: her removal from office "is overwhelmingly to the benefit of the protection of the constitution ... We remove President Park Geun-hye from office."

In Zuma’s case, chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was harsh, saying the president had "failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution as the supreme law of the land".

But, again, there was an important difference. While the South Korean judge had admonished the president for failing to heed parliament’s criticism, Mogoeng had harsh words for the failings of the SA legislature.

"There was everything wrong with the national assembly stepping into the shoes of the public protector, by passing a resolution that purported effectively to nullify the findings made and remedial action taken by the public protector and replacing them with its own."

The South Korean parliament voted to impeach Park; the SA parliament voted to protect Zuma.

Park faces charges over bribery, extortion and abuse of power. Zuma faces no charges and had to pay back a small portion of the money spent on Nkandla, which he did using a bank loan.

Democracy depends, after all, on the preparedness of its elected leaders to defend it.

Please login or register to comment.