Publication: The Natal Witness
Reporter: Susan Segar
The Natal Witness
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
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
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,''
"Putting it simply, the ANC will not permit Zuma to damage
the organisation with a major set of accusations about its
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
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
''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
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.
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.
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
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
"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
"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.
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.''
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
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
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
*2 Lawyer Claims R750
000 for Defamation from Sunday Times
22 September 2005
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.
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
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.
defamatory statements included:
- "(Roberts's) firm arranged for Johannesburg law firm Deneys Reitz to give
him a job. After three months he left saying he wouldn't be the firm's 'smiling
native'. In effect, he was told to leave when it was found he'd been making
private business arrangements that created a conflict of interest for Deneys
Reitz. Had he been a South African lawyer, steps would probably have been taken
to have him struck from the roll".
- "Blacks who criticise the government are dismissed venomously by Roberts as
white lackeys and slaves to Eurocentrism."
- That he was an "egregious West Indian carpetbagger".
- "Roberts says he left (New York) because he was 'bored'."
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".
the reciprocal is more likely (figuratively of course).