Editorial: Public figures must be free of suspicion

Bizarre is the only way to describe the scenario of a man accused of two brutal murders applying for the case to be postponed so that he can attend a crucial city council meeting – where he is due to be installed as a councillor.

And yet this is exactly what has happened after a suspected killer in a vicious mob justice attack revealed he had been elected as an ANC ward councillor in last week’s local government elections.

The party he represents has been quick to point out that Vukile Dyele is innocent until proven guilty – and there is absolutely no questioning that most basic human right of presumption of innocence.

But that is really beside the point and his ANC defenders must know deep down they are being disingenuous.

We are talking here about an elected public figure who should be free of any suspicion hanging over his head regarding his fitness to hold office and its potential to compromise the credibility of the body serving the interests of the city.

What is deeply disturbing is that the ANC would even entertain the idea of allowing a person facing such extremely serious charges to be a campaigning face of the party before he was fully cleared of the allegations against him.

And yet it happily admits that party leaders were aware of Dyele’s criminal charges but its screening processes had given him the all-clear. Screening processes? Would a pending murder trial surely not be considered cause for a re-evaluation of a candidate’s credentials.

This, yet again, demonstrates flagrant – and typical – disregard for what ought to be the obvious: a reassurance by any political grouping to its constituents that it has a genuine commitment to good governance.

Fielding alleged killers as community leaders sends out a different message.

Quite apart from the utter inappropriateness, the move, in any event, does not show much political acumen. Should Dyele be found guilty and jailed for more than 12 months, he will be disqualified. Inviting a potential by-election in a ward which was won by a mere fraction, should probably have weighed a little heavier on minds when it came to candidate selection.

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