Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2006-05-15 Reporter: Vukani Mde Reporter: Karima Brown

SACP Set to Grill Kasrils on Role in Zuma Trial



Business Day

Date 2006-05-15


Vukani Mde, Karima Brown 

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AS EMBATTLED African National Congress (ANC) deputy president Jacob Zuma attempted to fight his way back into the party hierarchy at last night’s national executive meeting, his supporters turned the screws on Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils as payback for his alleged role in the “political conspiracy” against Zuma.

Kasrils has been summoned to appear next weekend before the South African Communist Party’s (SACP) central committee meeting, where some members are expected to accuse him of misleading the party about his role in Zuma’s rape trial.

Party sources said Kasrils had told a central committee meeting last November that he had never been approached by Zuma’s accuser for assistance. It later emerged that the accuser had in fact spoken to Kasrils before reporting a rape case to the police, and the intelligence minister had been due to testify for the state during the trial.

“There is a prima facie case that (Kasrils) has to answer in the political conspiracy aimed at preventing Zuma from assuming the presidential office, said Young Communist League national secretary Buti Manamela yesterday.

Following Zuma’s acquittal on the rape charge last week, the gloves have come off in the ANC’s ugly succession battle.

Opponents of Zuma’s succession said Markinor research showing almost two-thirds of South Africans were against a Zuma presidency vindicated their view that Zuma was not fit for public office.

“Zuma wants the presidency of the ANC and the country. It won’t happen though because the ANC is sophisticated enough to choose differently,” said a senior government official opposed to Zuma.

The Zuma strategy was expected to become clearer at last night’s extraordinary meeting of the party’s national executive. Sources close to the ANC deputy president said there would be open revolt if the party top brass tried to stymie Zuma’s return to the fold or attach conditions to it.

While there was technically no reason for the ANC leadership to block Zuma from resuming his full party office, the Mbeki camp was reluctant to accede to an unconditional return as this would allow Zuma direct access to the party’s mass support base.

Trepidation has also risen in the camp, following indications that the corruption case against Zuma was not as watertight as previously thought. But should Zuma’s opponents try to frustrate his return to full party office, his supporters indicated they were willing to bring matters to a head by converting this year’s policy conference into a special national conference and attempting to unseat Mbeki as party president.

While the ANC continues to officially deny the succession tussle between supporters of Mbeki and Zuma, the president has now been directly drawn into the fray.

The YCL yesterday hit out at Mbeki, after the leaking to the media of a “suicide note” written by Zuma’s late wife Kate Mantsho, accusing Zuma of abusing her throughout their 24-year marriage.

Manamela said: “The president has expressed his views on whom he wants to succeed him. Obviously he doesn’t want it to be Jacob Zuma. If Zuma is cleared of all the allegations against him then he qualifies for any office.

“There’s going to be a campaign to destabilise him and ensure the president’s wishes are realised,” said Manamela.

The league said the suicide note was a “classified” document held only by the police and the presidency, and suggested strongly that one or both of these state institutions were central to efforts to tarnish Zuma’s image.

They said Mbeki’s recent statements that a woman “should” succeed him as president were “out of line” and aimed at curbing Zuma’s chances.

“We believe that there remains a commitment, whatever the cost, to ensure that Jacob Zuma does not assume any higher office,” Manamela said.

Since Zuma’s acquittal last week, his camp has been bouyed and have renewed calls for him to succeed Mbeki next year. They have also turned up the heat on senior ANC members they accuse of being part of the “political conspiracy” against Zuma.

They have also linked Zuma’s rape case and his trial for corruption in the Durban High Court in July, saying that both were trumped up to destroy Zuma’s chances in the succession race.

They have also drawn links between the court cases and the hoax e-mail saga that engulfed the intelligence agencies last year, which led to intelligence boss Billy Masetlha’s firing.

Because of his sensitive cabinet portfolio and a perceived close relationship with Mbeki, Karsrils is shaping up to be the most high-profile casualty yet of the Zuma camp’s strategy.

With acknowledgement to Vukani Mde, Karima Brown and Business Day.