Publication: The Natal Witness Issued: Date: 2005-10-15 Reporter: Susan Segar Reporter: Reporter:

Why Zuma Won't Tell All


The Natal Witness

Date 2005-10-15


Susan Segar

Web Link


It is highly unlikely that axed deputy president Jacob Zuma will fulfil his threat to spill the beans on the "real reasons'' behind his corruption case. This is the view of Professor Robert Schrire, professor of Politics at the University of Cape Town.

In an interview with Weekend Witness, Schrire said there are two reasons why South Africa cannot expect a flood of dramatic revelations from Zuma once the trial, which Zuma has termed "harassment by the judiciary'' has ended.

On Tuesday this week, Zuma appeared in the Durban Magistrate's Court for the second time in connection with two corruption charges stemming from his relationship with his convicted former financial adviser Schabir Shaik. After his appearance, he told throngs of supporters outside court that he would reveal, after his trial, why he was really being charged.

But Schrire said he doubts that the ANC deputy president will do anything of the sort.

"Firstly, most conspiracies are very difficult to document - so whatever major accusations Zuma makes will be short of evidence,'' Schrire said.

"Secondly, the African National Congress is committed, above all else, to its own survival and hold on power. The desire to remain in power is the main motivating factor in the ANC - not personalities or policies. Anything that damages that hold on power will be ruthlessly oppressed by the leadership,'' Schrire said.

"Putting it simply, the ANC will not permit Zuma to damage the organisation with a major set of accusations about its leaders.''

Schrire agreed with other commentators that Zuma's remarks would have tested the tempers of the ANC leadership who have called for a united front over the Zuma matter. In September, the ANC National Executive Committee made public an agreement it had reached that its leaders should take a stand against factionalism in the organisation, as well as continue the struggle against corruption and respect the rule of law.

The ANC has chosen to remain quiet on who Zuma's comments were directed at, with ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama saying that he preferred not to speculate on what Zuma was referring to.

Asked what information Zuma could be referring to, Schrire said: ''It is very clear what Zuma is saying. He is saying - and he is, of course, correct - that whatever he has done, many people in the ANC have done similar misdeameanours and have got away with it because they are on (President Thabo) Mbeki's side.

''The bottom line is that the ANC has created a link between politics and economics, so that political connections can be converted into economic wealth. He is just one of those in the organisation who have used their influence to acquire wealth. And that is what he is referring to.''

Schrire contended that it is "pretty certain'' that Zuma will be able to point to a range of people in the ANC who fit this bill. "We know them. Most of it is not quite secret. We all know people whose husbands, wives or other connections have benefited from empowerment deals.

''What Zuma would like to do is cleanse the temple by outing those who are guilty as he is but who have got away with it.

"But, first of all, that would totally destroy his political career and would certainly mean that any prison sentence he would get would not be commuted by the president. I would go so far as to say that, as Mr (Brett) Kebble (the Cape Town businessman who was assassinated last month) has found out, it could endanger his physical survival.

"Jacob Zuma is often ruled by his heart. But when his head takes over from his heart, and the ANC hierarchy has spoken to him, I would be very surprised if anything emerges about the Zuma files.''

Amanda Gous, professor of Political Science at the University of Stellenbosch, concurred with Schrire that Zuma, in his threat to reveal all, was referring to the involvement of other senior ANC leaders in similar misdemeanours. "It could be even more damning, in the sense that there are also rumours that Thabo Mbeki is, himself, also involved in the weapons scandal. It could be related to that. There are so many people and angles to this arms procurement programme - some of which came out in the trial of Schabir Shaik. I think what Zuma is doing is threatening to implicate other people in high positions.''

Richard Young, the Cape Town businessman who has been on a relentless pursuit for justice since losing a R150 million bid to supply the information management system for the South African Navy's new corvettes, after being led to believe, for years, that the contract was his, was outspoken on the matter.

"I think that Zuma is saying that he was just one of the people who got caught up in the whole excitement of the arms deal and the initial stages of black empowerment. In the last five years, black economic empowerment has become a ubiquitious thing and, partly because of maturity and laws and charters, it is now the norm. But in 1998 and 1999, there were no rules and regulations or norms whatsoever.

"So, as far as BEE and the arms deal is concerned, people got on the bandwagon - especially people like Schabir Shaik - and Zuma threw in his lot behind Shaik's BEE aspirations. This now turns out to have been premature in terms of what was allowed and what was not allowed.

"Many other people were on the bandwagon, but not as greedily as people like Shaik.

"I think that when Zuma makes this kind of threat, he is threatening to reveal who else was involved, and the reason it is so sensitive is that Mbeki was also involved. He was certainly supporting certain companies and certain people.''

Young said he believed it was a great pity that former Defence Force Minister Joe Modise "died so early''. "He took so many secrets to the grave pertaining to the arms deal, specifically those involving British Aerospace and even on the corvette side.

"Even though there might not be much evidence that Mbeki was personally involved in the arms deal, he was certainly having secret meetings with John Major, Chirac and Helmut Kohl,'' Young said - "as well as with Thomson'' (CSF), (the French company, which was the majority owner of African Defence Systems, one of the companies at the centre of the probe into the arms deal. "The meetings with the three leaders are common knowledge and the meeting with Thomsons came out in the Shaik trial.''

"All this happened in the year preceding the signing of the contract. Zuma knows all this,'' said Young.

Ronald Suresh Roberts, the author who is currently writing a biography on Mbeki, rebutted Young's claims as "mere defamation'' *1.

On Zuma's threats to "reveal all'', Roberts said he believes that they amount to "nothing''. "The whole 'I will tell you later'' strategy is meaningless. The point is there are no facts. If there were something, he ought to reveal it in court, which is the proper place for him to do it.

"He should confine his remarks to the courtroom rather than fight populist battles on the steps of the courts,'' Roberts continued.

Asked to comment on the existence of a personal rift between Zuma and Mbeki, Roberts said: "There is no personal rift. If you look at the role of Zuma before the Shaik trial, he was a key point man for Mbeki on different committees, he was head of the Moral Regeneration Movement and of the deployment committee. This whole idea that there was a long-standing rift is incorrect. Zuma was appointed by Mbeki. The whole idea of an ulterior secret is silly.''


Ronald Suresh Roberts,com_simpleboard/Itemid,/func,view/id,8791/catid,8/

*1  Come on Mr Roberts *2, surely a Harvard trained lawyer can do better than this?

But if this is indeed defamatory, then let's see the matter to court. Maybe the principal will call his biographer as a character witness.

Maybe the biographer will call Chris Barron and Tim Cohen as character witnesses.

Surely the public will find this interesting too, just like the arms deal and what Dr Zuma might have to say at some or other time in the future.

Maybe some more truths maybe exposed.


*2  Lawyer Claims R750 000 for Defamation from Sunday Times

Cape Times
Fatima Schroeder
22 September 2005

Writer and lawyer Ronald Suresh Roberts is suing the owners of the Sunday Times, Johncom Media Investments Limited, for R750 000 in the Cape High Court for defamation and injuria for a profile published last October.

But the newspaper has defended the report as true and in the public interest and that opinions expressed were fair and in good faith.

The profile, titled "the unlikeable Mr Roberts", was written by Chris Barron and was also made available on the Sunday Times website.

In court papers, Roberts claims the piece conveyed to readers that he was not a fit and proper person to be an attorney or to be employed by a firm of attorneys, and that he conducted himself in a dishonest manner.

It also created the impression that he levelled unjustifiable criticism against people and that he had criticised people in order to further a racial agenda or to protect the ANC.

The alleged defamatory statements included:

But the Sunday Times claims the article's content, was true or substantially true, and that reasonable steps had been taken to verify it.

The Sunday Times (from South Africa) profiles "The Unlikeable Mr. Roberts" better known as Ronald Suresh Roberts, Nadine Gordimer's estranged biographer.

“Are you one of those pricks selling out on socioeconomic rights?” was [Roberts'] opening line when he met former Cabinet Minister Kader Asmal during constitutional talks in 1994.

Roberts was all of 26 then, a brash Wall Street lawyer who’d come to South Africa to “observe” the elections.

Asmal, an urbane South African-born law professor from Trinity College, Dublin, who’d given his life to the struggle for socio-economic rights in his homeland, told him to “f**k off”.

In South Africa, one is generally considered unlikeable if one calls a professor 40 years older than oneself a "prick".

Possibly, the reciprocal is more likely (figuratively of course).