Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2003-09-10 Reporter:

I'm Fit to Lead, Insists Zuma



The Star

Date 2003-09-10

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Jacob Zuma has scoffed at suggestions that he should step down in the face of damning corruption allegations.

The embattled deputy president insists that the scandal "does not warrant any standing down of any kind" and has urged the public to assist the government in fighting corruption.

Appearing relaxed and laughing his way through biting questions from the Democratic Alliance in the half-empty National Council of Provinces on Tuesday, Zuma reminded MPs that "we are presumed innocent until found guilty".

Wearing a dark grey suit, white shirt and maroon tie, Zuma on Tuesday faced the first public questions in the NCOP since the state implicated him in corruption charges brought against his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik. As the government's chief representative in the Moral Regeneration Campaign, Zuma has come under pressure to step down in the wake of the allegations made against him by the elite crime-busting unit, the Scorpions.

But Zuma has consistently protested his innocence and last week took National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka to court in a bid to prove he is clean.

On Tuesday, DA MP Gerald Lever referred to Ngcuka's statement "that there is a prima facie case of corruption for you (Zuma) to meet". He then asked Zuma: "Until the cloud of suspicion is lifted, will you stand down as deputy president and as patron for the Moral Regeneration Campaign?"

Lever's question provoked jeers and howling from Zuma's colleagues in the ANC benches, while the deputy president himself laughed sneeringly before answering.

"I'm sure the honourable member knows - even (with) me not being a lawyer, being just an ordinary citizen - that there is a principle that says 'we are presumed innocent until found guilty'," Zuma said, prompting cries of "Yes" from his ANC colleagues.

"If you take what the director of prosecutions said, he said he cannot prosecute me, there is no case to prosecute me."

"However, what he said is there was a prima facie case, which does not say there is anything wrong that I have done that warrants any conviction."

"There are specific steps that I have taken to deal with that specific issue and it does not warrant any standing down of any kind," Zuma said to more cheers and clapping from the ANC benches.

In a follow-up question, DA MP Sandra Botha asked Zuma whether he was leading the Moral Regeneration Campaign "by example".

"What do you mean?" was the cry from ANC MPs as Zuma rose to answer.

"I have led by example when I came to any capacity of leadership and I am still leading by example," Zuma said abruptly before taking his seat again.

New National Party MP Adrian van Niekerk rose immediately to take a swipe at his former DA allies, quoting senior DA MP James Selfe's infamous statement that "what is bad for the country is good for the opposition", evoking laughter from the ruling party's supporters in the chamber.

After three years of investigations, Ngcuka said there was prima facie evidence - evidence which is sufficient to establish the fact unless rebutted - against Zuma, but added he would not be prosecuted because the case was not "winnable" in court.

Zuma allegedly attempted to solicit a R500 000-a-year bribe from French arms company Thomson-CSF, which won a contract in the government's multibillion-rand arms deal.

Zuma was expected to face another round of questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

With acknowledgement to The Star.