Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2009-02-21 Reporter: Karima Brown Reporter: Hajra Omarjee

ANC Makes Its Case for Zuma



Business Day

Date 2009-02-21
Reporter Karima Brown, Hajra Omarjee

Web Link

Party leader details his relationship with his financial adviser for the first time, write Karima Brown and Hajra Omarjee

The African National Congress (ANC) fears violence in the country if the prosecution against their presidential candidate, Jacob Zuma, continues. On Friday Zuma’s lawyers and the ANC made representations to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) about why the corruption case against him should not proceed.

Prosecutors heard for the first time Zuma’s version of his relationship with his former financial advisor Schabir Shaik, who is serving a 15-year jail sentence for corruption relating to the country’s multibillion-rand arms deal.

The talks between the NPA and Zuma’s legal team are at an “extremely sensitive stage”, parties to their discussions say. But both the NPA and Zuma’s legal team
dismiss any possibility of a plea bargain, or of changing the indictment against him.

Relations between Zuma and the NPA have shifted over the past few months, with insiders saying the state is no longer prepared to prosecute him “at all costs”.

The talks between the defence and the prosecution take on urgency as the countdown to the April 22 elections draws closer.

If Zuma becomes the next president, he may well have to appoint the new head of the NPA ­ who might still have to decide the state’s case against him.

Zuma has to answer to 16 graft, fraud and racketeering charges which stem from the state’s investigation into his finances after Shaik’s conviction.

The ANC’s lawyer, Asif Latib , says the party made the case in written submissions to the NPA on Friday that Zuma’s continued prosecution would not be in the “public interest”.

“The corruption charges were brought over six years ago,” Latib says. “
The NPA has had an opportunity to make their case in court and they were not able to. Zuma will probably be the president (of SA) in two months’ time.

“Look at the effect this case is having on the economy. The rand fell against the dollar the last time there was a judgment against him.

“We also fear violence should Zuma go to court while he is president.”

NPA spokesman Tladi Tladi will not be drawn on the details of the meeting, but says Zuma’s
representation is “not out of the ordinary” .

“Every accused has the option of making representations…. As far as this meeting is concerned, it’s really not about being satisfied, the ink has not even dried yet. It would constitute an injustice to have an opinion on the outcome of the discussions,” Tladi says.

It is understood that Zuma’s legal team made an oral submission to the NPA on Friday which
centred on three key issues.

Previously, his lawyers submitted written arguments detailing why the corruption charges are invalid. Besides arguing that Zuma’s
relationship with Shaik was not corrupt, they are also making the case that there was a politically motivated conspiracy against him and that his continued prosecution is not in the public interest.

The ANC was terse on Friday about its talks with the NPA, saying only that the outcome was “neither here nor there”.

While the party has retained counsel on the matter, only Zuma’s team, led by Michael Hulley, met the state’s prosecutors.

“Either we convince them (the NPA) or we don’t. As far as the ANC is concerned no crime has been committed,” says ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa .

The party will apply to the Constitutional Court next week to be a friend of the court and to be allowed to make submissions in Zuma’s case.

Details of Friday’s meeting were sketchy, as the parties to the talks remained tightlipped about the specifics of the interaction for fear of jeopardising the fragile process of engagement.

Zuma and Shaik’s relationship dates back to when the two were bound by struggle ties in the ANC underground before the party was unbanned in 1990. Zuma and the ANC maintain that his relationship with Shaik was not corrupt.

Shaik’s brother Mo said Schabir did on occasion “ inappropriately advertise” his association with Zuma. However, he insists that his brother’s intentions were “never corrupt or intended to corrupt Zuma”.

The ANC president has gone to court almost 40 times since the charges were brought against him and
speculation is now rife that a deal between him and the state could well be on the cards *1.

State and ANC officials were keen to “not play” the media, given the sensitivity of the process.

The NPA’s acting head, Mokotedi Mpshe, has the discretion to withdraw charges against Zuma.

Arguments that state institutions were politically motivated to ensure Zuma did not become the ANC’s and later SA’s president are understood to form the core of Zuma’s imminent application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

Zuma’s legal team is understood to have brought to the NPA’s attention on Friday
just how damaging their information on political agendas *2 influencing Zuma’s prosecution could be to the future integrity of the prosecuting body and other state departments.

Prior to Friday’s gathering ANC insiders indicated that the party had
“substantial” evidence of political interference in Zuma’s prosecution *3.

It is understood that the Zuma defence has an
explosive affidavit which points fingers at senior political figures who served in the government under former president Thabo Mbeki *4.
NPA officials appear to be open to giving Zuma’s legal team a fair hearing this time around.

Judge Chris Nicholson found that Zuma had a right to make representations on his charges before a decision was taken to prosecute him. But Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Louis Harms found that Zuma did not have that right.

The ANC’s argument for public interest does have some merit, if one considers the NPA’s prosecutorial guidelines, which state that “a wrong decision” to pursue a case “undermines the community’s confidence in the prosecutions system”.

The guidelines also say that a decision to stop a prosecution must be made “with circumspection”. Zuma’s lawyers will most likely seize on these as an opening to make their case that the charges be dropped.

The ANC and several civil society organisations have urged the state to take into account the consequences of prosecuting Zuma at all costs. Some businesspeople have argued that the country would be better served if the prosecutors abandon their case against the future president.

Opposition Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille has called on Zuma to do the right thing and step aside.

“Put your ambitions aside and act in the interests of the country and the constitution by publicly stepping down,” she said in an open letter to Zuma this week.

Zille also warned of a possible constitutional challenge to Zuma’s presidency.

“In fact, I have been reliably informed by senior members of the bar that your election could be challenged in the Constitutional Court,” she wrote.

“That is because your presidency would create a conflict of interest between your constitutional role as head of state and your status as an accused in a matter that has been brought against you by the state itself.”

However, constitutionally someone is ineligible to become head of state only if they have been sentenced to more than one year in prison.

Efforts by Zille and the Congress of the People ­ which broke away from the ANC ­ to prevent Zuma from becoming SA’s first citizen will no doubt be vigorously opposed by the ruling party and its allies.

“Look at the effect this case is having on the economy. The rand fell against the dollar the last time there was a judgment against him. We also fear violence should Zuma go to court while he is president”

With acknowledgements to Karima Brown, Hajra Omarjee and Business Day.

*1*2     One needs to take this statement with a pinch of salt considering from whence it comes, Karima Brown - another of Zuma's embedded journalists.

*3      It is very unlikely that there is any evidence at all of political interference to prosecute Zuma. Otherwise this would have emerged in the 38 court appearances over the last couple of years. But it has not because it is bullshit and even Kemp J. Kemp tends to avoid disbarrment as an advocate by propagating bullshit.

At the same time there is all the evidence in the world of political interference not to prosecute Zuma.

*4      This is more likely to be an explosive report which points fingers at senior political figures who served in the government under former president Thabo Mbeki, including Mbeki himself. The report probably includes a couple of affidavits - to make it prima facie.

Indeed my guess is that whatever affidavits are included are to substantiate the veracity of certain encrypted faxes written by Thomson-CSF's Pierre Moynot and Alain Thetard, as well as confirm certain of the facts indicated by these documents.

But in general none of the grounds put up in the representations have any validity whatsoever for an abandonment of charges, for the following reasons :

The Questions Zuma is Being Asked

Sunday Times
Ranjeni Munusamy, Mzilikazi Wa Afrika, Andre Jurgens, Jessica Bezuidenhout

The Scorpions yesterday confirmed that a 10-page letter containing a list of questions was sent to Zuma's attorneys on July 9 2003.

The Sunday Times has obtained a copy of the document. Among the questions are a request for Zuma to supply :
The Arms Deal  Financial Benefits
Nkandla Development Financial Position

Documents Requested

* The very day the Cabinet announced the preferred suppliers of the Strategic Defence Packages

Related links :

With acknowledgements to Ranjeni Munusamy, Mzilikazi Wa Afrika, Andre Jurgens, Jessica Bezuidenhout and the Sunday Times