Guilty or not, only courts can decide

All allegations of wrongdoing on the part of politicians or any individual must be tested through the courts of law, not public opinion, the writer says, in light of EFF leader Julius Malema's response to his and his party's alleged links with the VBS Mutual bank scandal.
All allegations of wrongdoing on the part of politicians or any individual must be tested through the courts of law, not public opinion, the writer says, in light of EFF leader Julius Malema's response to his and his party's alleged links with the VBS Mutual bank scandal.
Image: Alon Skuy

Anyone familiar with EFF leader Julius Malema's methods would not have been surprised at his handling of yesterday's engagement with the media.

A controversial politician whose name has popped up in a series of corruption scandals throughout his political career, Malema's engagement with a select group of journalists yesterday was billed as an opportunity to address a flurry of accusations against him in the public domain.

These include the VBS saga, in which he is accused of benefitting from money stolen from the bank, allegations that his lifestyle has been bankrolled through various dubious ventures as well as the decade-long On Point Engineering scandal, in which his Ratanang family trust is accused of benefitting from proceeds of crime.

Whether his answers were indeed satisfactory is up for public debate and, to a degree, influenced by individual views on Malema, his party and its politics.

However, two things were clear from the engagement.

The first is that despite proclaiming his innocence, Malema and the EFF have not legally challenged any of the allegations against him, which ought to be taken seriously by anyone who is against graft.

Instead, Malema has sought to conveniently assume a posture that says "he who accuses must prove".

As a legal principle in the context of jurisprudence this is, of course, sound.

However, for a politician whose currency rests on public perception, Malema's posture on this is problematic.

It suggests that in the absence of prosecution, he would rather hedge his bets with a public that is prone to political biases rather than voluntarily subject himself to a process of legal scrutiny.

The second and probably most important thing to note from yesterday's engagement is how as as a country we desperately need a strengthened and independent prosecuting authority.

Ultimately, all allegations of wrongdoing on the part of politicians or any individual must be tested through the courts of law, not of public opinion.

It is the only way we can make informed decisions about those who we place in positions of power.

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