Presidency responds to law professor's remarks

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Media statement

The appointment of Advocate Menzi Simelane as the National Director of Public Prosecutions has elicited various responses and heated up the country's polity.

In a vibrant democracy such as South Africa's, this is to be expected. However, certain utterances - such as calling President Jacob Zuma a "gangster" - clearly go beyond the standards of decency and intelligent debate.

Constitutional law professor Pierre de Vos has been quoted in the media as having said: "The appointment [of Advocate Simelane] shows an utter disregard for the Constitution and the law. It is nothing more than the actions of a gangster hell bent on protecting himself and his cronies. I feel ashamed that I have given our President the benefit of the doubt for all these months." The assertions he made do indeed appear in his blog.

The Presidency finds the statement shocking and despicable.

Reference to the Head of State of the Republic of South Africa as a "gangster" does not show respect for the incumbent as an individual and also insults the Office that he holds.

The Presidency welcomes issue-based debate and President Zuma encourages debate and the views of all, even those who disagree with him vehemently.

It is our opinion that it is possible for constitutional law experts to differ with government and disagree without being disagreeable, and without making inciting statements or insulting utterances.

President Zuma is known for encouraging mutual respect for political opponents and people who differ with him and for always observing diplomacy and decorum. It would not be asking too much to encourage Professor de Vos to embrace maturity and decency in expressing his anguish whenever the need arises.

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