Publication: Sunday Argus Issued: Date: 2004-10-24 Reporter: Jeremy Michaels

'Hard to Say if Nguka was Right'



Sunday Argus

Date 2004-10-24


Jeremy Michaels

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Acting national prosecutor Silas Ramaite has refused to be drawn on whether he agrees with the decision of his predecessor, Bulelani Ngcuka, not to prosecute Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

It was "very difficult" to say whether he would have taken the same decision as Ngcuka, Ramaite said at a media briefing in Cape Town on Friday after meeting Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla and Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana.

The meeting came after parliament decided in July that the justice minister should call a meeting with Ngcuka and Mushwana after they publicly clashed over Mushwana investigating a complaint by Zuma that Ngcuka had violated his rights by saying publicly that there was a "prima facie" case against the deputy president.

Mushwana found in favour of Zuma, but Ngcuka promised to "smash that report into smithereens", arguing that his side of the story had not been heard and suggesting that the statement would be clarified during the trial of Schabir Shaik - Zuma's financial advisor - currently being heard in the Durban High Court.

Mabandla said she would not "sit in judgment" of Ngcuka's decision to tell the public in August last year that the National Prosecuting Authority would not be taking Zuma to court.

Considering that there was immense public interest at the time in the fact that the elite Scorpions unit was investigating Zuma, Mabandla was asked whether Ngcuka - who resigned at the end of August - had taken the right decision to make a public statement even though Zuma had the constitutional right to his dignity.

On August 23, 2003, Ngcuka held a press conference with former justice minister Penuell Maduna at his side and charged that there was a "prime facie" case against Zuma but declined to prosecute because he was unsure about whether the case was winnable.

Ramaite was asked whether he would have taken the same decision as Ngcuka not to prosecute Zuma despite the fact that there was a case for the deputy president to answer in court.

"Its very difficult - it would be possible to give you an answer if we were in a law classroom, but in the real world its not possible," Ramaite said.

Mushwana insisted that he stood by his decision on the basis of the evidence that was before him at the time of Zuma's complaint in November last year.

However, he suggested that future cases might be dealt with differently since the jury was still out on "whether or not it is right".

With acknowledgements to Jeremy Michaels and the Sunday Argus.