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Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Zuma corruption ruling leaves South Africa's judiciary with egg on face

Supporters of ruling African National Congress (ANC) President Jacob Zuma celebrate in the streets of Cape Town's Gugulethu township after South African prosecutors dropped corruption charges against Zuma, April 6, 2009.  REUTERS

Supporters of ruling African National Congress (ANC) President Jacob Zuma celebrate in the streets of Cape Town's Gugulethu township after South African prosecutors dropped corruption charges against Zuma, April 6, 2009. REUTERS 

By HENRY OWUOR and AgenciesPosted Tuesday, April 7 2009 at 19:47

It was always known that there was interference in the corruption case against Jacob Zuma. It was also known that the state was meeting Mr Zuma’s legal fees to the tune of 10.7 million rand (Sh94m) and that the entire bill may hit 100 million rand (Sh880m).


The latest straw that broke the camel’s back was a revelation by a local newspaper, The Times last month that tape recordings of the country’s former top prosecutor Mr Bulelani Ngcuka and former head of the Scorpions police unit, Mr Leonard McCarthy could let Mr Zuma off the hook.

As early as March 20, The Times confidently reported that the Zuma case could not stand, but as recently as last Sunday, the government denied the existence of the tapes and, last week, the office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence dismissed calls for an investigation into the recordings, saying there was no proof that they existed.

But, come Monday, April 6, South Africa’s top prosecutor, Mr Mokotedi Mpshe quoted extensively from the same tapes.

But, Mr Mpshe cleared former President Thabo Mbeki of any wrongdoing in the Zuma, case despite the fact that the top police investigator, Mr McCarthy clearly stated that he was a Mbeki man.

Mr McCarthy was recorded saying after Mr Mbeki was ousted as ANC president: “I am Thabo man, I mean we are still wiping the blood from our faces, or egg, or egg and blood from our faces. Saw the man on Friday evening, we planning a comeback strategy. And once we have achieved that, we will clean up all around us my friend.”

The latest developments, coming after the freeing of Mr Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik last month on medical grounds, raise questions. Mr Shaik served only two years and four months of his 15-year prison term.

There are signs of a clearly choreographed state operation aimed at preparing Mr Zuma the African National Congress chairman for the presidency.

Reacting to the latest developments, Mr Zuma said: “There never was a case against me.’’

He said an 8-year battle by prosecutors to convict him was “political and manipulative”.

But, the opposition Democratic Alliance leader, Ms Helen Zille described the prosecutors who dropped the charges against Mr Zuma as a “political tool” and called for a judicial review of the decision.

Ms Zille, said: “(The NPA) has become a political tool in the hands of the Jacob Zuma faction of the ANC. The constitution and the rule of law is at stake here.”

The answer to questions raised by Ms Zille lie in comments by the chief prosecutor Mr Mpshe who revealed that the tapes that finally cleared Mr Zuma were made by the country’s spy agency.

He said: “NPA was indeed given access to certain recordings, which the National Intelligence Agency legally obtained.’’

But, the latest move was not the only surprise sprung by Mr Zuma who at one time in 2006 appeared headed for jail in a rape case. But, even that time, Mr Zuma was cleared by a judge, Mr van der Merwe who said the accuser, known only as Khwezi, told a lot lies.

During the trial, Mr Zuma admitted to having unprotected sex with Ms Khwezi, but claimed that he took a shower afterwards to “cut the risk of contracting HIV”.

But, being cleared of the cases over corruption, fraud, money laundering or racketeering plus rape does not mean Mr Zuma will have an easy time on the world scene.

There will always be questions over Mr Zuma’s involvement in corruption deals especially allegations that he took a cut in a $5 billion arms procurement deal, the main reason why he was sacked as Deputy President by Mr Mbeki in 2005.

On the other hand, women groups will always be suspicious of Mr Zuma after the rape allegations and the callous statement over Aids.


And, the tax-payer will bear all the costs.

Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi said after the announcement of the acquittal yesterday: “The cost which the State bore to prosecute Zuma was R100 million. “We will have to pay... After all we are the tax payers... so we will pay for the blunders and political agendas of others.”

Mr Zuma is also likely to have a rough time from the opposition DA which said that it will file a high court application calling for a judicial review into Mr Zuma’s acquittal.

Will continue

Any appeal against the prosecution move means suspicion will continue to dog Mr Zuma.

But, investors can now heave a sigh of relief as the country prepares to host the World Cup.

But, there will always be questions over the independence of South Africa’s judiciary after the circuitous turns Mr Zuma’s cases took in the corridors of justice.

Finally, the ANC can say that it was vindicated over its claims that Mr Zuma had been the victim of a political conspiracy.

Less than three weeks to election day, campaigns can finally begin in a race that pits the ANC against the Congress of the People (Cope), formed by defectors angry over the sacking of President Mbeki late las

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