This week, former president Jacob Zuma announced that he will defy a constitutional court order to appear before the state capture commission. (Read more) While we might not be surprised by Zuma anymore, lawlessness is very much part of our society. What does such brazen behaviour say about our respect for the law?
Being law abiding does not have the same meaning for everyone. On my travels (which feels like a lifetime ago!), I’ve often seen how some will wait for the plane’s seatbelt sign to go off before getting up, while by then, others will have their luggage out and their phones on. In some countries no one jaywalks, in another, it is the norm. To what degree the rules are followed differs from one society to another, but also from one person to another. There might be many reasons for that. It is, for instance, easy to understand that parking on the pavement might not seem to be such a big deal when armed robberies and murders are what you’re really concerned about. But with such a grey approach to the rules, how do you maintain law and order?
It was quite interesting when local Covid regulations were so strictly enforced. While it was of course important to abide by the regulations for all of our safety, it is a bit ironic when you get arrested for walking on the beach and buying baby formula after the curfew, while many serious crimes happen around us every day.
I think whether you are compliant or not comes from both behaviourism and your personality. Some of us are eager to please while others are always pushing boundaries. While some grow up in an environment where rules are important, with consequences when you don’t comply, others grow up with less discipline and structure. Whether you comply or not also depends on what the rules are. When rules are perceived to be unfair or unreasonable, we are often tempted to ignore them.
While closing the beaches might have been Government’s attempt to keep people from traveling to holiday destinations, this decision was met with much hostility. So much so, that Muizenberg Beach saw a protest of beachgoers ignoring the Level 3 lockdown regulations. (Read more) While a flattening of the curve might have been his reason, when President Ramaphosa announced the reopening of beaches a day or two later, protesters took it as a sign of victory. Is civil disobedience the answer? In our society, violence and disobedience are often the vehicle of protest. While unfair legislation should be challenged, I can’t believe that disregarding the law can be the answer. What will society be without the rule of law and accountability?
You might have a dispute, but you have to address it in a proper manner. When the wine industry felt that a third ban on wine sales were unfair and unreasonable, Vinpro decided to go to court to address the matter. (Read more) That is going about it in the right way.
We might be shocked by Zuma’s contempt for the rule book, but some introspection can’t hurt. While it might not offend anyone when you park on the sidewalk, it indicates a general disregard for the law. If we want to live in a lawful environment, we all have to respect the rule of law.