Zuma’s Parallels With Spiro Agnew

Author Jacques Pauw’s allegation that, while President, Jacob Zuma received R12 million from a Durban security company (Mercury, November 9) suggests a situation that has parallels
with the case of former US Vice President Spiro Agnew.

In October 1973 Agnew resigned as Vice President. For the previous eight months he had denied charges of bribery and corruption during his term as Governor of Maryland and during his tenure
as Vice President in the Nixon Administration.

But when the charges persisted and became a matter of court adjudication, Agnew instructed his lawyers to plead nolo contendere – no contest, which was the equivalent of a guilty plea. Agnew
was given a $10,000 fine and disbarred.

In 1981, after his attorney-client relationship had lapsed, it was disclosed that Agnew had accepted bribes worth $147,500 while Governor of Maryland and that the trail of corruption had continued whilst he served as US Vice President to the tune of a further $17,500. As was stated at the time, “Spiro Agnew used the privilege of his high office for his own purposes.”

Not only was Agnew’s acceptance of that money immoral and illegal but his failure to disclose it for tax purposes was a further crime. Jacques Pauw’s contention concerning Zuma and Royal Security company appears strikingly similar. Not only is it unconstitutional for a president to be on the payroll of a private company, it is a crime for failing to declare those earnings for tax purposes. At R1 million a month over the period of a year, Zuma may be liable for R4,8 million in unpaid taxes.

Although initially Spiro Agnew stalled in admitting his guilt, when he saw his case scheduled for court, he took the only honourable course left and resigned as US Vice President. Already Zuma is denying Pauw’s findings and claiming they are “fictitious stories.” Agnew erred disgracefully but at least he did submit tax returns even if they were inaccurate. Pauw’s findings, confirmed by Ivan Pillay, a senior SARS official, are that between 2009 and 2014 Zuma failed to render tax returns.

For that disgrace alone Zuma should resign. After all, his conduct appears far more illegitimate than Agnew’s.

Sent into The Mercury and published, 13 November 2017.

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