Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2004-10-07 Reporter: Sphiwe Mboyane

Zuma Gets Cabinet Backing Ahead of Shaik's Fraud Trial



Business Day

Date 2004-10-07


Sphiwe Mboyane

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The cabinet rallied around Deputy President Jacob Zuma yesterday, saying it was satisfied by his recent public denials of corruption.

Zuma's name appears frequently in Durban-based businessman Schabir Shaik's final charge sheet, which was released to the media on Tuesday.

Shaik's trial is scheduled to start in the Durban High Court on Monday .

The final charges allege that payments made to Zuma by Shaik totalling R1,2m were corruptly made as part of a continuing scheme to influence "Zuma to use his office or position to advance Shaik's private business ".

Shaik and his 10 companies are also charged with fraud, corruption, theft and money laundering.

But government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said yesterday after the weekly cabinet meeting in Pretoria that the cabinet had noted Zuma's public response to the allegations and " takes him at his word".

Zuma has denied the allegations and dared the National Prosecution Authority to charge him.

"It is hoped that the media will respect the dignity of the office of the deputy president and judicial institutions and not impugn his integrity on the basis of allegations not proven in a court of law," said Netshitenzhe.

Government also wished to emphasise that charges and allegations by the Scorpions "cannot be the basis of presumption of guilt without due process".

Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said the cabinet's decision to back Zuma was correct from a legal perspective.

"He (Zuma) has not been charged with a crime. Shaik has ," said Matshiqi.

Matshiqi said there were two parallel cases going on at the moment. On the one hand there was the formal criminal case against Shaik, and on the other Zuma was appearing in a "public and media trial" in which his integrity and that of the arms deal is being questioned.

He said the cabinet's decision to support Zuma might, however, be politically "risky" because it could be interpreted by his detractors as "political support".

This could propel his detractors, who do not want him to become the next president, to find more damaging evidence against him, said Matshiqi.

The decision by former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka not to prosecute Zuma was a "double-edged sword", said Matshiqi.

"While it might have succeeded on the one hand to damage his (Zuma's) political reputation to some people, it drew support for him among many people in and outside the African National Congress who saw him as the victim of a political smear campaign," he said.

With acknowledgements to Sphiwe Mboyane and the Business Day.