Day of High Drama as Zuma is Dealt Triple Blow in Battle to Clear His Name
John Battersby, Andre Koopman
In what amounts to a triple blow against Deputy President Jacob Zuma in his efforts to clear his name, the government and the ANC have moved to limit the fallout from the political dog-fight around the Scorpions' suspended investigation into Zuma and his alleged role in the multibillion-rand arms scandal.
In a day of high drama:
The Pretoria High Court said Zuma's application for an order was not urgent and struck it from the roll. Zuma wants the court to order that he be given the original handwritten memo allegedly implicating him in an attempt to arrange payment of R500 000 by a French arms company, Thomson-CSF, now known as Thales, in return for "protection" during the arms deal investigation and support for future projects. The judge's decision means Zuma's application is to be placed on the normal court roll, so it could be six months or more before it is heard.
The government convened the first sitting yesterday of a cabinet committee, announced by Justice Minister Penuell Maduna last week, to consider allegations made by ANC veteran Mac Maharaj that National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka was an apartheid spy.
The ANC, after an all-weekend meeting of its national executive committee, made it clear there would be no investigation by the ANC into allegations of spying against Ngcuka. The ANC statement said the government was best placed to probe the spy allegations, while the Scorpions and appropriate instruments of the judicial process would continue to probe alleged corruption in relation to secondary contracts in the arms scandal.
The rapid convening of the cabinet committee indicates that government wants to move swiftly to clear Ngcuka's name and to protect the reputations of the position of National Director of Prosecutions and the prized Scorpions investigations unit.
The ANC statement also indicates that the ruling party does not intend any action to support Zuma, deal with the cloud hanging over him, or clear Ngcuka or implicate him in spy allegations.
The government action in convening the cabinet committee and the ANC statement indicating that the ruling party will not get involved in the spy allegations are being interpreted as signals that Zuma is being hung out to dry politically and will have to fight his own crusade to clear his name. Ngcuka has found there is prima facie evidence of corruption against him, but has decided not to prosecute because, he says, he is uncertain of securing a conviction.
The crisis around the investigation into Zuma took a turn last week when it emerged that part of Zuma's case in demanding the encrypted letter was that Ngcuka had been an informer for the apartheid regime.
The spy allegations were supported by Maharaj, who headed the ANC's underground Operation Vula, and Mo Shaik, a foreign affairs official who was a key ANC intelligence operative.
But Scorpions spokesman Sipho Ngwema has countered with a claim that Agent RS452 was a white operative reporting to former security agent Karl Edwards. Maharaj countered that the white agent was merely a cover.
A spokesman for the Justice Department, Kaizer Kganyago, confirmed that the ministerial committee that was to probe the spy allegations had met yesterday. The meeting was attended by Maduna, Ngcuka, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, Housing Minister Brigitte Mabandla, Correctional Services Minister Ben Skosana, head of Scorpions investigations Leonard McCarthy, and the director-general of justice, Vusi Pikoli.
It is understood that the committee was also set up in an attempt to quell the battle between Ngcuka and Zuma.
Kganyago was at pains to point out that the meeting was not an investigation of Ngcuka, but an "administrative meeting looking at the functioning of the Scorpions".
With acknowledgements to John Battersby, Andre Koopman and the Cape Times.