Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2003-09-08 Reporter: Jeremy Michaels

Arms Deal Court Showdown



The Star

Date 2003-09-08


Jeremy Michaels

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High drama is expected this week as the arms deal saga rolls on, with the battle between Deputy President Jacob Zuma and the head of the state's prosecuting authority Bulelani Ngcuka continuing in the courts today.

Allegations of corruption against Zuma, which he has vehemently denied, are also expected to feature prominently in parliament as the ethics committee launches a probe, recommended by Ngcuka, into gifts allegedly received by the deputy president.

Opposition parties are expected to ask questions about Zuma's continued leadership of the crucial moral regeneration campaign.

According to Ngcuka's spokesperson, Sipho Ngwema, the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions was today due to file replying affidavits in the Pretoria High Court in response to Zuma's application last week for access to a fax which was "manifestly of great significance" to his defence.

In a bid to clear his name, Zuma has taken Ngcuka to court for publicly making allegations that the state had prima facie evidence of corruption against him, but then refusing to take the case to court because the state was unsure if its case was winnable.

Ngcuka's subordinates made allegations of a "generally corrupt" relationship between Zuma and his financial adviser Schabir Shaik in a charge sheet filed against Shaik in the Durban Regional Court last month.

Zuma has applied for access to the original French hand-written version of an encrypted fax allegedly written by Alain Thetard, director of the French arms company Thomson-CSF, according to which Shaik helped Zuma to solicit a R500 000-a-year bribe.

"We are filing (the answering affidavits) on Monday," Ngwema said yesterday.

Zuma's affidavit was "riddled with rumours, hearsay and things that are not based on facts", Ngwema said in apparent reference to alleged defamatory statements contained in the deputy president's application to the court.

Ngcuka's lawyers opposed publication of the affidavit last week, urging Transvaal Judge President Bernard Ngoepe to issue an order prohibiting publication until the urgent application by Zuma had been heard. Judge Ngoepe said he saw no need for a prohibiting order, but warned that the law was clear that statements which had not yet been before court were privileged, and that publishing potentially defamatory statements would leave one open to be sued or even face a charge of contempt of court.

According to an edited version of the affidavit printed in the Sunday Times yesterday, Zuma makes damning allegations against Ngcuka and the elite Scorpions investigat-ing unit of unlawful conduct and "gross abuse of public power".

In his affidavit, Zuma charges that Ngcuka and his investigators "unlawfully obtained access to my banking records (ie without any search warrants or other legal instrument) and instructed my bankers to keep secret from me the unlawful access to my personal information and records afforded to the investigating team".

Zuma also said he would be invoking "the protection of the public protector against what I view as a gross abuse of public power".

Charging that he had been stripped by Ngcuka of the right to a trial, Zuma said: "I cannot think of any reason consistent with good faith why it was necessary for the first respondent, after having come to the conclusion that he cannot win a case against me, in effect to tell the nation that I am nevertheless guilty."

And in parliament, the ethics committee and the registrar of members' interests are expected to start a probe this week into Ngcuka's allegations that Zuma did not declare more than R1-million in gifts from Shaik and his Nkobi group of companies in the parliamentary register of members' interests.

National Assembly Speaker Frene Ginwala said on Friday that she had received and referred Ngcuka's allegations to the committee.

Zuma is expected to argue that the alleged gifts were in fact loans. Committee chairperson Luwellyn Landers said yesterday that the code of conduct for MPs did not require them to declare loans in the register.

Zuma is also expected to face tough questions from the opposition this week about his leadership of the government's moral regeneration campaign.

In a related development, Ngcuka has promised to take City Press newspaper to court for publishing serious political allegations against him yesterday.

With acknowledgements to Jeremy Michaels and The Star.