(AA) – South African President Jacob Zuma has urged African presidents to respect their countries’ constitutions by not extending their stay in office after serving the maximum two-term limit.
“The business of us agreeing to serve two terms and then to realize that 10 years is too short is a problem,” Zuma told the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town on Thursday.
Aside from a few states, African countries observe a universal rule of allowing a maximum of two consecutive terms in presidential office.
President Zuma, who participated in a meeting with leaders of the East African Community in May to find a solution to the political crisis in Burundi, said it was wrong for leaders not to leave office after the end of their terms.
“Burundi has been in peace with itself; what has caused a problem is that the President felt he hasn’t done his two terms and people believe he has done it. That has caused a problem,” he said.
Burundi is one of the African countries currently being rocked by protests after its President Pierre Nkurunziza who has been in office since 2005 declared his bid to run for a third term.
The opposition says Nkurunziza does not have the right to seek a third term, citing Burundi’s constitution, which limits the number of terms a president can serve to two.
Dozens of people have been killed in protests and clashes which broke out in the East African nation late April.
Zuma said Africa needs to do more to ensure that conflicts are totally eradicated on the continent because whenever there is war it is mainly the youth who suffer.
“Instead of the youth being educated and prepared for the future they are made to fight the wars. This is not acceptable by the African Union,” he told delegates.
He also pointed out that there has been a decline in the number of coups d’état in Africa, an indication, he said, that the African Union has instilled the culture of democracy and rule of law on the continent.
“Unlike before, Africa has now said we cannot tolerate any coup d’états any more. Indeed coup d’états have disappeared,” he said.
The South African leader added that the African Union also decided in March to establish a thousands-strong special intervention force, which would swiftly act in any conflict affected African country to solve the crisis and restore justice.
“We wouldn’t go to that at the beginning. We would want to first engage, that’s why on the issue of Burundi there have been few meetings to discuss that,” he said.
A number of African presidents have amended their countries’ constitutions to enable them to extend their terms in office from two to as many as three or four. Africa has some of the longest serving leaders in the world.
– ‘Anti-corruption culture’
Commenting on corruption, President Zuma said his country has one of the best structures to ensure that corrupt officials were thoroughly investigated.
“South Africa has a very strong anti-corruption culture that was never there before,” he said, adding that even he as the president can be investigated and there is no problem with that.
President Zuma has been facing an investigation for an alleged misappropriation of public funds worth $23 million, allegedly used to upgrade his personal home in Nkandla town of southeastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
However, a recent report by the police minister said he was innocent and does not need to pay back part of the money because the upgrades were security features for his protection as head of state.
Zuma said action has been taken against officials investigated and found to have engaged in corrupt practices in various government departments. “Some have lost jobs, others serving in jail,” he noted.
“No matter how big or small the issue is, people want to see it take its course,” he said.
Zuma added that the proper structures in his country ensure that there is more focus on tax payer’s money, making it difficult for abuse to crop up.
Another corruption case involving South Africa gained international prominence this week after a 2013 testimony by former top FIFA official Chuck Blazer was revealed by U.S. investigators, saying that he took bribes for South Africa’s selection to host the 2010 World Cup.
South African officials had earlier denied paying bribes, saying that a $10 million payment was above board and was attached to a FIFA program.