Shaik Trial Puts Zuma in a Deeper Quagmire
This week will see Deputy President Jacob Zuma unfairly tried in the public domain, largely by the media, while the actual accused in the dock will be his financial adviser - Schabir Shaik.
Glancing at the charge sheet, evidence suggests that a criminal charge of "passive corruption" should be tested against the deputy president.
It is clear from the charge sheet that an ethical question about the rules governing members of executives should have been raised by the appropriate public body - parliament.
Even though there are blurred guidelines about the declaration of assets and the liabilities of the executives, the loans cited in the Shaik charge sheet inspire shivers of discomfort.
The charge sheet raises legal and ethical issues that should be tested by appropriate institutions and not the media or the court of public opinion.
Some writers and commentators have already shifted the onus of proof on the deputy president - that he must show he is not corrupt. The burden of proof should shift to the state, as soon as there is a formal charge, accompanied by evidence against the accused.
Has it been done in this case? No. Zuma is not an accused for now.
The last time we heard the former national director of Public Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka on the matter, he said he had a prima facie case but not a winnable case of corruption against Zuma.
Despite repeated attempts by the opposition, parliament never formally considered motions on the deputy president's conduct.
The cabinet last week rallied around Zuma on the basis of presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. For those expecting answers from Zuma, questions should be directed to these two institutions. Why was he not charged?
From the Shaik charge sheet, there is no doubt that a case of corruption should be instituted and tested. There is no doubt that if he were an ordinary citizen he would have been shoved into a black Golf 4 with a red scorpion sticker - humiliated, embarrassed and paraded in a Hollywood-style arrest before the flashing cameras.
But Ngcuka re-enacted Pontius Pilate's hand-washing ritual and backtracked from charging Zuma after public mudslinging.
It was a strategic move, given what Schabir Shaik's trial would do to Zuma's name without anyone in the National Prosecuting Authority getting his/her hands dirty or feeling the wrath of Luthuli House.
Parliament, like the ANC, didn't have the temerity to deal with one of their senior comrades. As in the Tony Yengeni case, they wanted someone outside, like Ngcuka, to do it.
Now Zuma's name, without his being in the dock, will be dragged through the mud. His credibility and dignity as an honourable bearer of public office will be tarnished. His dodgy financial record and extravagant appetites will be exposed. He is in an even deeper quagmire and to an extent unfairly so. He is not going to be able to answer to these charges for now, but his name will overshadow the accused in the media.
The only redemption he might cling to is the populist support he is enjoying among the rank and file of the ANC. However, this does not necessarily translate into real power and authority. How many leaders in the movement have been quarantined and marginalised, for different reasons, while brandishing the populist weapon?
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Yengeni, Bantu Holomisa, Mathews Phosa and Cyril Ramaphosa all come to mind.
The ANC, like any other party or organisation, operates within the rules of democratic centralism where popular support for an individual will not automatically earn him or her a seat in the "politburo".
Zuma is aware of this. He is well endowed in the politics of the movement. He knows the party's traditions and values.
Luthuli House needs him to hold the centre intact, and not let things fall apart. But things are falling apart around him.
With acknowledgements to Moshoeshoe Monare and The Star.