On June 14, 2005, I sat in the parliamentary gallery in Cape Town as then-President Thabo Mbeki fired his deputy, Jacob Zuma, over suspicions of corruption.
Zuma had not been charged with any crime, though a former associate had just been convicted of bribery.
The stunning decision was cheered by South Africa’s elites, who saw Mbeki’s move as a step toward greater transparency. But there was an immediate backlash from those who saw Zuma as the target of a political vendetta.
Zuma was, after all, hardly the only member of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) who was suspected of being corrupt. Mbeki had enriched a coterie of wealthy new oligarchs, thanks to so-called “empowerment” deals that claimed to redress past racial discrimination but also happened to funnel massive wealth to well-placed members of the ruling party.
Zuma’s supporters — labor unions and ethnic Zulus — saw him as the victim of selective justice. They rallied behind him.
Two years later, Zuma was elected president of the ANC, ousting Mbeki from the leadership of the ruling party, and soon forcing him to resign the presidency.
Zuma coasted to the presidency of the country in the 2009 elections, riding a wave of populist outrage. He would go on to be a disastrous president, looting the country’s institutions on behalf of his donors and cronies. But he might never have come to power had Mbeki pursued a fair and transparent process of investigation.
Donald Trump is no Jacob Zuma. For one thing, he was a very effective president, whose performance in office exceeded expectations. For another, he was a transparent president — the most vetted president in American history, with none of the corrupt self-dealing that has accompanied Joe Biden and his family into the Oval Office.
Whatever his flaws — and they are many, including his self-destructive pursuit of allegations of fraud in the 2020 election — he was, arguably, very successful.
But Trump, like Zuma, has been singled out and targeted for selective investigation and prosecution.
From the beginning, he was accused — falsely — of colluding with Russia to win the 2016 election. An investigation by the special counsel cleared him — so Democrats began an impeachment investigation, on a spurious pretext and behind closed doors. After the Capitol riot, they impeached him without an investigation. When that failed, they came up with the one-sided January 6 committee.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) pursued Trump allies, defrauding a surveillance court; railroading National Security Advisor Michael Flynn; convicting former campaign manager Paul Manafort on unrelated charges; and staging a bizarre pre-dawn raid on former adviser Roger Stone, with CNN cameras in tow.
The DOJ also threw the book at those who came to the Capitol on January 6 — even nonviolent trespassers — after letting Black Lives Matter and Antifa rioters run rampant through American cities.
Now that Attorney General Merrick Garland — who promised, in his confirmation, to keep the DOJ out of politics — has allowed the DOJ to raid a former president for the first time, while ignoring evidence of misconduct by Biden and his family. Republicans are outraged, and rightly so.
The DOJ and the FBI are acting like political arms of the Democratic Party. The Trump raid looks less like the pursuit of justice and more like a political hit on a hated opponent.
It also looks like the kind of thing that happens in the Third World.
My family immigrated to the U.S. in 1977 because, as my father says, “illegality had become the law” under apartheid. Under Mbeki, and later Zuma, illegality once again became the law in post-apartheid South Africa.
The great appeal of the United States has always been the rule of law. But the DOJ, the Democrats, and the media who egg them on are turning America into the kind of place that people leave in search of liberty.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.