Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-09-16 Reporter: Chantelle Benjamin, Xolani Xundu

Setback for Zuma's Bid to Clear Name



Business Day

Date 2003-09-16


Chantelle Benjamin, Xolani Xundu

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Efforts by Deputy President Jacob Zuma to clear his name were thwarted yesterday, when the Pretoria High Court turned down his urgent application for the release of a handwritten copy of a fax that is alleged to implicate him in an arms-deal bribery scandal.

This means the allegations will continue to dog Zuma until the case is heard on the ordinary roll, which is unlikely to be before February next year.

The dismissal of Zuma's application came after acrimonious arguments in the case, which were revealed in affidavits from both sides yesterday.

They include allegations from Zuma's lawyers that national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka tried to further his own political career by offering Zuma a "corrupt" deal to make the arms deal allegations "go away".

The alleged offer required Zuma to answer a number of questions, and that his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, plead guilty to "minor" charges, said Zuma's lawyer, Neil Tuchten SC.

Tuchten also accused Ngcuka of instituting a deliberate policy to undermine Zuma's dignity, particularly when he held a news briefing to announce that there was a "prima facie" case against Zuma, but that it was not strong enough to take to court.

Leonard McCarthy, in an affidavit for the Scorpions, denied a deal was discussed, saying talks were held with Zuma's counsel only with regard to questions the Scorpions wanted answered.

The dismissal of the case came as the African National Congress (ANC) gave its tacit support to Zuma, saying after a weekend meeting of its national executive committee that it was satisfied no irregularities had taken place with the primary arms deal contracts.

The party also distanced itself from allegations that Ngcuka was an apartheid spy.

The ANC's head of presidency, Smuts Ngonyama, said the ANC's list of spies and informers was handed to government in the 1990s and he did not know if Ngcuka's name was on it.

Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said the position taken by the ANC on the spy allegations was "a holding strategy" meant to allow the party more time to deal with the matter.

With acknowledgements to Chantelle Benjamin, Xolani Xundu and the Business Day.