Tue, 25 Sep 2018
Rio de Janeiro

Justice may seem blind, but it's also cockeyed

15 Apr 2018, 15:40 GMT+10

All nights bring darkness, but not all nights are the same, and the inability to discern between the two has led many to be caught up on the blind side of hope.

Last Saturday, the former president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, started serving his 12-year prison sentence.

Many applauded and invoked the word "accountability" as if it is the magic word that ends all evil.

Half a world away, South Korea's former president, Park Geun-hye, was sentenced to double Lula's term.

Unfortunately, the nuances that are the building blocks of the truth are lost in the euphoria.

Park's sentencing is about scapegoating, trick-or-treating the masses with mob justice while the culprits continue with the shadiness that keeps them in business.

Park was convicted of collecting or demanding $22 million (R264 million) from the chaebol, including Samsung, and forcing more into donating over $70 million to foundations controlled by her friend.

South Korea is a Western democratic country, at least on paper, but it is governed by chaebols, or a handful of family-controlled conglomerates.

Park was felled by popular uprising and was impeached. The nuance everyone ignores is that the people shouted on the streets that the chaebol are accomplices.

In the real world, the corporations are the real criminals and the politicians are accomplices. The latter come and go while the chaebol lies in wait to ingest the next politician.

Rooting out corruption in South Korea is a lot more than extracting a rotten tooth. It is closer to uprooting the only tree that prevents soil erosion.

The politicians gave Korean conglomerates tax breaks, which allowed them to grow in international markets.

In return, the politicians turned the chaebol into their personal ATMs.

Lula's case is the textbook example of the question posed by the Roman poet Juvenal: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? translated as who will guard the guards themselves?

Indeed, who will guard the judiciary and make sure the people are protected from boys' club justice and the settling of old-school-tie scores?

In theory, justice is blind, but those who lived through apartheid have learnt from experience that justice can be both crooked and cockeyed.

This is because the judges are not raised in a clinical laboratory free from all human vices.

Instead, they are raised with the preferences and prejudices of their time.

Da Silva was convicted as a way of removing him from the national elections he is poised to win.

He is the leading candidate in the opinion polls for the elections scheduled for October. He was forced to hand himself over to police to start serving jail time while the appeal is under way and before all the avenues of justice are exhausted.

If the higher court eventually finds him not guilty, how will the court restore his time lost behind bars? How will it repay the people of Brazil for denying them their democratic choice?

Let's go back to the abortion of justice.

Da Silva, his wife Marisa and Leo Pinheiro, the former president of Brazilian conglomerate OAS, were charged with corruption.

The former presidential couple were accused of asking for an apartment along with some "improvements", to the tune of about $1 million.

Judge Sergio Moro put Pinheiro in temporary custody for two years while the Da Silvas remained outside. Marisa died during the process and Pinheiro turned state witness.

The state couldn't provide any evidence beyond Pinheiro's word.

Hopefully, the people of Brazil will answer Juvenal and prove that the people will guard the guards.

* Muzi Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency.

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