Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2011-01-26 Reporter: Editorial

Zuma’s self-serving double standards



Business Day

Date 2011-01-26
Reporter Editorial
Web Link

ALMOST two years ago, on the eve of the 2009 election, then acting National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Mokotedi Mpshe announced that fraud and corruption charges against African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma were being withdrawn. It is now a matter of record that, relieved of the burden of having to face trial in a public court for his alleged part in corrupt transactions arising from the arms deal, Mr Zuma went on to become president of SA.

Mr Mpshe justified his controversial decision by asserting that secret recordings of phone conversations between his predecessor at the NPA, Bulelani Ngcuka, and then Scorpions investigative unit head Leonard McCarthy, amounted to "intolerable abuse" of the legal process and rendered a fair trial impossible. Selected transcripts of the conversations, released by Mr Mpshe, seemed to suggest that the two had colluded to time the introduction of charges against Mr Zuma in such a way that they would do maximum political damage.

The decision to withdraw the charges was controversial for two main reasons: the taped conversations appeared on the face of it to have come into the possession of Mr Zuma’s lawyers illegally before being passed on to Mr Mpshe, and no adequate explanation was provided for why the decision on whether the trial had been fatally compromised was not left to the courts to make.

The Democratic Alliance subsequently challenged Mr Mpshe’s decision in court, and the matter is still pending. Mr Mpshe, in turn, asked then inspector-general for intelligence Zolile Ngcakani to investigate the origin of the tapes and how they came to be in the possession of Mr Zuma’s legal team.

This investigation was completed more than a year ago and the report was handed over to Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence. Since then, nothing. The ANC-dominated committee refuses to make the report public, with chairman Cecil Burgess maintaining that the committee has fulfilled its oversight role and no further action is therefore necessary.

This is completely unacceptable in a constitutional democracy that claims to value transparency and freedom of information. If senior state employees were indeed abusing their public office for political ends, we have a right to know. And they should be prosecuted. By the same token, if the president of the country or his agents broke the law by gaining possession of classified information, we have the right to know that too.

Former Special Investigating Unit deputy head Faiek Davids has now claimed in papers filed with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, where he is contesting his suspension arising from allegations made in the same set of recordings, that unit head Willie Hofmeyr told him the tapes were made illegally by police crime intelligence during the criminal investigation against former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

All of this remains untested, of course, and that is precisely the point. It may well be that Mr Davids deserves to lose his job, but he surely can’t be fired on the basis of supposedly top-secret evidence. And nor should Mr Zuma have been let off the hook on the basis of information that has been selectively declassified for that purpose.

The fact that no action has been taken to ensure those responsible for leaking and accepting such classified information are brought to book exposes the Zuma administration’s bid to push through the Protection of Information Bill, which would impose severe penalties on those found guilty of this in future, as a self-serving outrage. What’s good for the goose must surely be good for the gander.

With acknowledgements to Business Day.

Like Thomson-CSF, Zuma doesn't have any standards, single double or otherwise.

Politics is the art of the possible and this one is the Leonardo of this dubious art.

The reason that McCarthy has not been charged is because he was in on the act.

The reason why the ANC-dominated Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence Chairman Cecil Burgess who used to be Patricia de Lille's attorney and one time ID member, refuse to make the report public is because they know that this will lead to an investigation involving first Mbeki and them Mandela.