Zuma 'On Trial' With Shaik
Jon Qwelane (Edited by Tori Foxcroft)
The "non-debate" about presidential succession in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has many people talking, especially those sections of the media who have appointed themselves king-makers. What a yawn!
There has been the rather unconvincing line that succession in the ANC is always assured, and Jacob Zuma is entrenched as deputy-president of the ANC and the country.
But really! It is true, of course, that he was elected unopposed at the last ANC congress in Stellenbosch - a position quite different to that in Mafikeng a couple of years earlier at another congress when Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's threatened from-the-floor nomination almost messed up the script.
This time round I think the brouhaha over the next ANC president - the incumbent is certain to be South African head of state as well - is a storm in a thimble: Zuma's fate will be decided by the outcome of the Schabir Shaik corruption trial, currently being heard before the Durban high court.
Judge Hilary Squires was diplomatic and proper to warn that the trial was of Shaik, and deputy-president Zuma was not on trial - not even listed among the witnesses.
But the truth is that the very popular JZ is on trial in the court of public opinion, where the ultimate verdict will matter perhaps even more than the verdict concerning Shaik.
Die-hard ANC supporters and loyalists are adamant that their man has been set up for foul play by elements bent on ensuring that he will never succeed to the party's eminent job and, therefore, the nation's Number One office.
Equally, his detractors and mainly the media, and other party people, are certain that JZ is not presidential material and is "guilty" of the charges Shaik faces - at best, they believe, Shaik is merely being the scapegoat for the dark and nefarious forces which are gunning for JZ.
Zuma himself has strenuously denied any complicity in the matter, at one time even going to court to demand that the Scorpions handed him the so-called encrypted fax which allegedly promised a bribe of half-a-million rand a year and protection from harassment by his government, should Shaik and his French accomplices win the tenders to supply armed fittings for the SA Navy corvettes procured in the multibillion rand arms deal.
To some, of course, it is merely a case of "the deputy president doth protest too much" and they say, in any case, there is no smoke without fire.
Be that as it may, talk of smoke and fire is tempting to let us hack the metaphor to bits now.
The smoking gun in the Shaik trial was the encrypted fax coupled with the appearance of hitherto "mysterious" witnesses - former secretaries of Shaik and his comrade-in-arms Frenchman Alain Thetard - and the heat was once more on poor JZ.
What the state must now do, even at this late hour, is to grant Zuma his wish - subpoena him as a witness and that way he gets to have his day in court, and clear his name.
The nice spin-off of such an arrangement would be that the "deabate" about the next president would be decisively settled, and for good.
John Qwelane's column is published each week on News24, courtesy of Jon Qwelane and the editor of Sunday Sun, which originally carried the article.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
Edited by Tori Foxcroft
With acknowledgements to Jon Qwelane and the Sunday Sun.