Publication: Business Report Issued: Date: 2003-09-01 Reporter:

The Degrading Treatment of Zuma Sets a Precedent That Can Only Harm Our Democracy



Business Report

Date 2003-09-01

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The national directorate of public prosecutions' behaviour in its treatment of allegations of corruption against deputy president Jacob Zuma, has set a dangerous precedent in the country's legal history.

Not only has Zuma been degraded but his constitutional rights have been infringed and, whoever is handling the case within the Scorpions' elegant circles, has actually defamed the deputy president. It's shocking.

Let's get this in perspective.

The 45-page draft charge sheet against businessman Schabir Shaik gives intricate, detailed accounts of alleged payments via third and fourth parties to Zuma, traceable via Shaik's Nkobi companies to Thomson/Thales, a beneficiary of the government's multibillion-rand arms acquisition package, from which deputy president Zuma allegedly solicited a bribe.

The charges include four counts of corruption - alternatively crime and theft, cooking the books, alternatively money laundering. Zuma is named in nearly all charges against Shaik, his financial adviser.

What is shocking is the unprofessional way in which the directorate has handled the matter against Zuma.

Last week, the Scorpions announced they had found prima facie evidence of corruption against Zuma. However, Bulelani Ngcuka, the national director of public prosecutions, said: "The directorate concluded that while there was a prima facie case of corruption against Zuma, the prospects of a successful prosecution were slim." What a shocker!

So, basically what Ngcuka is saying is that the deputy president "is guilty, but also not guilty". It's a contradiction in terms.

It's worse than not prosecuting him. Prima facie means you have enough evidence to take the matter to court. In other words you do not take cases to court that are absolutely winnable because the outcome is determined by a lot of factors and developments in the court room, including testimony and cross-examination of witnesses.

What the directorate should have said was there was not enough evidence to prosecute and shut up about it.

It is so unfair to the deputy president. In fact it's worse than not prosecuting him.

Investigators publicly announced the allegations of corruption against him, but declined to prosecute. This is condemnation at its worst. In fact it's made it more difficult for him than if he had been charged. So what if the Scorpions had lost this case? Would that be the end of the world for them? The answer is no.

Yes, the deputy president has questions to answer. But, maybe the man has answers to those questions. Why infringe on his constitutional rights and degrade him like this? The second-highest ranking government official in the republic is pronounced a criminal by people who do not even wish to give him the right to answer these allegations in court. It's crazy.

What is despicable about this case is the way the directorate used the media as megaphones to put Zuma on trial when he hadn't even been charged. You can't go any lower this.

What is puzzling about this case is that a draft charge sheet was issued against Shaik. I have never heard of a draft charge sheet.

What are the implications of all this just a few months ahead of the elections? The answer is simply that our democracy is in danger. If the deputy president can be degraded like this without using the courts to go to the bottom of the case, then I am afraid our leadership is in trouble. The question is: Who will it be next? Is there an alternative agenda here? Who is behind it?

The abiding pain for us blacks is the desperation by some to find us guilty of corruption, sometimes without proving it in the law courts.

With acknowledgement to the Business Report.