Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2004-07-30 Reporter: Sapa

Ngcuka : Leon Blames ANC




Date 2004-07-30



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Cape Town - The resignation of National Prosecuting Authority head Bulelani Ngcuka shows the separation between the ruling African National Congress and the state has crumbled almost completely, Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said on Friday.

Writing in his weekly newsletter, Leon acknowledged President Thabo Mbeki had yet to approve Ngcuka's resignation, and Ngcuka himself had said he was leaving of his own free will.

"Yet these are mere formalities. The real story is clear to the entire nation.

"For at least the past twelve months, the ANC leadership made it impossible for Ngcuka to continue in his work because he was actually doing his job - namely, holding the leaders of our country accountable to the public," Leon said.

Certainly, Ngcuka had made some mistakes, including convening an off-the-record briefing with black editors in July 2003 to discuss his investigation into Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

Not only was this unfair to the deputy president, but the very idea of a "blacks-only" meeting should be anathema in South Africa's non-racial society.

Ngcuka also erred when he declared there was a prima facie case against Zuma, but that he would not be prosecuted. This had the effect of tarnishing Zuma's reputation without giving him a fair hearing in a court of law.

"In mitigation, however, it is clear that Ngcuka's actions were often in response to the ANC's attempts to protect the deputy president and to frustrate any serious effort to probe into the details of the multi-billion rand arms deal.

The Zuma affair

"The ANC made certain that Ngcuka himself would never receive a fair hearing when the report of the Public Protector into Ngcuka's conduct in the Zuma affair came before parliament.

"The ruling party used its majority on the ad hoc committee to prevent Ngcuka from responding to the report and speaking in his own defence," he said.

When Ngcuka was first appointed to head the NDPP in 1998, the DA objected. The appointment of an ANC insider - no matter how competent -to the directorship of a prosecuting authority meant to be independent, was cause enough for concern.

"Although Ngcuka made a commendable effort to remain independent, that concern, regrettably, was validated over the past year as the South African legal system became the terrain for the ANC's internal battles," Leon said.

"The problem is that public officials are accountable to the ANC and to the president before they are accountable to the public. That is why our government is perceived to be more and more tolerant of corruption, despite its protests to the contrary.

"When a ruling party controls 70 percent of the seats in parliament, it is absolutely necessary that independent institutions remain independent. Yet over the past several years we have seen the ANC replacing relatively independent-minded appointees with cadres who are considered more obedient to the party's dictates, " he said.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and News24.