Ngcuka Sticks to His Guns Over Remark
Prosecutions boss Bulelani Ngcuka is adamant there was nothing wrong with his remark last year that there was a "prima facie" case of corruption against Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
Last month parliament expressed its disapproval of the "prima facie" statement and accepted Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana's finding that it had infringed Zuma's constitutional rights and that it was "unfair and improper".
But in an interview with the Cape Argus, Ngcuka said Zuma should feel aggrieved about the charge sheet against his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, not with the statement that there was a prima facie case of corruption against him.
Ngcuka insisted the statement was based on fact and his decision to prosecute Shaik and not Zuma was "correct in law and morally correct".
In an apparent reference to the charge sheet that refers to Zuma throughout, he said: "It is not my statement that he (Zuma) should feel aggrieved with. He should feel aggrieved with the indictment - it is the indictment against Schabir Shaik that leads to the statement I was making."
Ngcuka rejected Zuma's complaints that his constitutional rights had been violated.
"Schabir Shaik is accused of making corrupt payments to the deputy president - so the matter arises not from the statement that there is a prima facie case, but from the indictment itself," Ngcuka said.
Speaking on the issue for the first time since he made the statement almost a year ago, he said: "If you read that indictment you will see there is a case against the deputy president, and the question that will then arise is, 'Why is it that he had not been charged?'" he said.
"If you take that indictment, on the face of it, you will say there is a case against the deputy president, but if you delve deeper, that's what I'm explaining."
Ngcuka, supported by then Justice Minister Penuell Maduna, told a press conference on August 23 that the investigating team had recommended a criminal prosecution against Zuma.
He said then: "After careful consideration in which we looked at the evidence and the facts dispassionately, we have concluded that, while there is a prima facie case of corruption against the deputy president, our prospects of success are not strong enough. That means that we are not sure if we have a winnable case. Accordingly, we have decided not to prosecute the deputy president."
Explaining this, Ngcuka said: "I had to give those reasons because I had to take a decision, and that decision must be seen to be transparent and correct."
Ngcuka said that in deciding whether to prosecute, "you have to weigh the evidence in order to avoid what we call malicious prosecution, because if you don't have a case you don't take it to court".
He said the investigation into Zuma "had become very, very public" and the indictment against Shaik - filed two days later in the Durban High Court on August 25 - begged an answer as to why Zuma was not being charged.
"Questions that were sent to them (Zuma) were leaked into the media, so it became a matter of public interest because you are not just dealing with an ordinary individual, you are dealing with the deputy president of a country."
He said that since the investigation into Zuma had generated so much public interest "it was important to say, 'We have now ended the investigation and we have not been able to find any evidence for us to prosecute the deputy president'".
Last month parliament wrapped Ngcuka over the knuckles after Mushwana found in favour of Zuma's complaint. But it stopped short of taking "urgent steps" against Ngcuka as recommended by Mushwana.
With acknowledgements to Jeremy Michaels and the Cape Argus.