The South African law and legal institutions have been rendered incapable and have been destroyed, former finance minister Trevor Manuel said. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Johannesburg- The South African law and legal institutions in the country have been rendered incapable and have been destroyed, former finance minister Trevor Manuel said.

Addressing the Eric Molobi Memorial Lecture at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Thursday evening, Manuel said that both the Freedom Charter and the Constitution outlined that no one was above the law.  

He said that equality before the law meant that the elite was as bound by the law as the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country.

"Here too one must appreciate the rise and fall of institutions of law - they were built as transformed and Constitutionally compliant after our democracy and sadly then cut down in their youth," Manuel said. 

"Today, we must ask why the [National Prosecuting Authority] NPA; the [Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation] Scorpions become the Hawks; the crime intelligence units of the [SA Police Service] SAPS; the general SAPS; the [National Intelligence Agency] NIA; and State Security Agency; the lower courts; the South African Revenue Service and even the Public Protector have all been rendered incapable."

"Notwithstanding the difficulty in building these to mark a sharp break with the apartheid past, they've all been destroyed because their presence as upholders of the law do not serve the interest of the ruling elite."

Read more: Trevor Manuel criticises ANC leadership

He said Parliament should be added to the list after the Constitutional Court found it to have breached it's Constitutional obligations in the landmark Nkandla  judgment of 31st of March 2016, on upgrades done to President Jacob Zuma's homestead.

In March 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma failed to uphold, defend, and respect the Constitution after ignoring former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s recommendations that he pay back some of the money spent on non security upgrades at his home. 

The Treasury set the amount he was liable to pay back at R7.8 million – and the presidency said Zuma took out a loan from VBS Mutual Bank to settle it.

Manuel said that Parliament did not act to remediate its faults and said that the ruling African National Congress benches appeared to act in support of Zuma and used their numerical advantage to block "rational" enquiry into constitutional violation.