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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

SA prosecutor challenges Zuma ruling

The increasingly brutal power struggle in South Africa took a new twist on Wednesday when the national prosecutor’s office said it planned to challenge last week’s court decision throwing out the corruption charges it had brought against Jacob Zuma, the frontrunner in forthcoming presidential elections.

Ahead of a crunch meeting of the ruling African National Congress’ national executive committee this weekend, the prosecutors’ announcement is expected to ratchet up pressure on Thabo Mbeki, the outgoing president, to stand aside early.

Friday’s high court ruling dismissed on a technicality 16 charges of corruption, fraud and money-laundering against Mr Zuma related to a R30bn arms deal that has blighted South African politics for a decade.

While the judge stipulated that he was making no judgement on Mr Zuma’s ”innocence or otherwise”, he concluded that Mr Mbeki’s administration exerted ”baleful political influence” over prosecutors who brought the charges days after Mr Zuma ousted Mr Mbeki as ANC leader in December. Mr Mbeki subsequently disputed the nation that there had been ”executive interference” in the proceedings.

Since Friday’s ruling, ANC firebrands loyal to Mr Zuma have called for Mr Mbeki to fall on his sword well before elections due by the middle of next year in which he is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

On Tuesday the ANC’s youth league, led by Julius Malema, who has said he would be prepared ”to kill for Zuma”, said: ”We remain convinced that Mbeki’s hold on the highest office in the land can only serve to deepen wounds to both the ANC as the ruling party and the government at large … Mbeki’s time to lead our people has ceased to be.”

Helen Zille, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, said: ”Unless [Mr Mbeki] can convincingly rebut the judge’s opinion, this would constitute grounds for his removal from office.”

However, many analysts consider that it would not be in the interests of the ANC leader – whom Mr Mbeki fired as vice president following the 2005 conviction of his financial advisor on charges of soliciting bribes for him – to repay the favour immediately.

Some contend that the ANC is insufficiently prepared to fight an election in which it hopes to extend its uninterrupted rule since the fall of apartheid in 1994 with an enhanced majority, even though its electoral dominance suggests Mr Zuma’s victory is a forgone conclusion. That may explain why Gwede Matashe, ANC secretary-general and a key Zuma ally, issued a statement on Wednesday slapping down the youth league.

Observers also believe that Mr Zuma would rather banish any remaining legal doubts before assuming the top job.

In November the same court that ruled in his favour last week will hear his application for a permanent stay of the graft charges on the grounds that a fair trial would be impossible after years of very public legal wrangling. The judge’s suggestion that Mr Zuma had been the victim of political intrigue worthy ”of the works of Kafka” appears to have bolstered that application’s chances of success.

The National Prosecuting Authority – some of whose leaders were lambasted in the ruling as instruments of political meddling – said on Wednesday it would challenge the decision to invalidate the charges because Mr Zuma had not been afforded his right to make representations before being indicted. It said it had yet to decide whether to bring the charges anew.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

1 comment:

English Rose said...

Someone once said to me that blacks will never be able to rule themselves because they don't have a clue. I think that the proof is in the pudding.