Publication: City Press Issued: Date: 2004-07-31 Reporter: Khathu Mamaila

Ngcuka Proved his Worth



City Press

Date 2004-07-31


Khathu Mamaila

Web Link


Some charlatans argue that Bulelani Ngcuka should not have been appointed director of the National Prosecuting Authority.

Why? Because he was a prominent member of the ruling ANC.

I hold a different view.

Firstly, being a member of any political organisation, a sacred right enshrined in our constitution, should not be a factor in appointing people to public office. Merit should be the guiding principle and not the political affiliation of the applicant.

If we fail this test, then we are on a slippery road to cronyism where the main issue is not what you know but who you know.

Secondly, being an ANC member empowered Ngcuka to do his job.

If Ngcuka had been white, and a member of the Democratic Alliance, for instance, he would have had a credibility crisis.

His intention to investigate ANC politicians would have been seen as a DA-led agenda to bring the ANC down. Had he been white, he could probably have been accused of trying to reverse the clock by targeting the new political aristocrats found to be on the wrong side of the law. But because of his political background, nobody could raise these issues aimed at weakening his credibility.

Thirdly, being an ANC member meant that he had to be seen to be pursuing justice without fear or favour, meaning that hewould pursue ANC political leaders with the same vigour as he would those outside the ANC.

Fourthly, as a cadre of the ANC, Ngcuka, it is safe to assume, wanted the ANC to succeed in government. If crime got out of control, the ANC should lose support, at least in theory.

He was unlikely to sabotage his own party by failing to discharge his responsibility to the best of his ability.

For over five years, Ngcuka has had ample chance to demonstrate to South Africans that he was indeed up to the task.

Under his tutelage, the National Prosecuting Authority prosecuted senior ANC members including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni. Ngcuka also investigated deputy president Jacob Zuma for his alleged involvement in corruption relating to the multi-billion rand arms deal.

If there was any doubt that Ngcuka had no holy cows, the probe against Zuma must have exploded this into thin air.

Ironically, Ngcuka did not seem to enjoy support from his own party for pointing an accusing finger at Zuma.

Perhaps he armed his detractors with ammunition when he said that there was a prima facie case of corruption against Zuma but that he would not be charged.

Understandably, this angered Zuma, who felt that he was being convicted in the public gallery while being denied an opportunity to defend himself in court.

I understand what Ngcuka meant. He was saying that on the face of it, Zuma has a case to answer in court. But he also appreciated the fact that he (Ngcuka) had no sufficient evidence to win the case.

Ngcuka could have charged Zuma and created a crisis because Zuma would have been forced to resign.

It would have been a political disaster if Zuma had been forced to resign only to be acquitted later because of a lack of evidence.

So, Ngcuka, who was privy to the information that was contained in the Schabir Shaik charge sheet, decided against charging Zuma.

He is still adamant that he was correct to issue the controversial statement which triggered a public protector investigation.

In that instance, Ngcuka may be guilty of poor judgement.

He should have appreciated the impact of his words before pronouncing on Zuma.

It is with regard to the manner in which he responded to the report of the public protector that he exposed himself as arrogant and disrespectful. After pressure was brought to bear on him by his party to apologise to Lawrence Mushwana, the public protector, Ngcuka remained defiant.

Instead of apologising to Mushwana , Ngcuka apologised to the public for "losing my cool" - but never to Mushwana.

In other words, Ngcuka was apologising to the public for having heard his insults on Mushwana and not for the abusive language he had used on the public protector.

This was a low point in an otherwise glorious career that made all law-abiding South Africans proud indeed.

With acknowledgements to Khathu Mamaila and the City Press.