Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2004-10-08 Reporter: The Editor

Our Future is Also on Trial



The Star

Date 2004-10-08


The Editor

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On Monday the trial of Durban business tycoon Schabir Shaik starts. He has been charged with, inter alia, corruption and fraud. In this connection, we should remember something that is patently obvious but that some of the media appear to have forgotten or seem in danger of forgetting: a person is presumed innocent, indeed is innocent, until proven guilty.

The same applies to another person who has not been charged, but who is named in the charge sheet as the alleged beneficiary of Shaik's alleged wrongdoing. This is Jacob Zuma, the deputy president of the country.

Although he has not been charged, his presence is so pervasive in the matter that one can safely say that the trial could be viewed as the equivalent of presenting William Shakespeare's Hamlet without the prince.

This is the second time that Zuma has gone on trial, as it were, in absentia. The first time was last year's Hefer Commission. One of the many oblique contentions made there by Mac Maharaj, former transport minister, and Mo Shaik, former diplomat and brother of Schabir, was that Bulelani Ngcuka, the then director of national prosecutions, was part of a cabal bent on neutralising Zuma.

Indeed, many people claim that the investigation into Shaik's affairs and this consequent trial are the fruits of a desire on the part of some powerful leading politicians and business leaders to ensure that the deputy president will never become president. It is claimed that, due to his popularity among African National Congress rank and file, Zuma is a certainty as the next president - provided of course that he is shown to have clean hands.

In short, the trial that begins on Monday could be said to be very much about who the country's next president will be. If Zuma's reputation is tarnished, the ANC might well find itself without a popular presidential candidate. If he emerges from the trial with his standing intact, we might all be watching his inauguration as president in 2009.

Either way, Monday's trial is as much about politics and the future of the country, as it is about the arms deal and alleged fraud and corruption.

With acknowledgements to The Star.