The law holds firm

2008-09-13 00:00

In ruling yesterday on the process by which Jacob Zuma was charged, there are significant things which Judge Chris Nicholson both did and did not do. One thing that he did not do is clear Zuma of the allegations against him. In fact, the failure to proceed against Zuma when prima facie evidence of corruption first emerged was heavily criticised. Judge Nicholson granted Zuma’s application because of technical irregularities in bringing the charges, and left the way open for further legal action against him if these are corrected. If Zuma really wants to clear his name, he still needs his day in court and it is the duty of the prosecution to give him that opportunity.

The ruling has, on the other hand, shattered the image of Thabo Mbeki, together with that of his Cabinet and the National Prosecuting Authority. Judge Nicholson found that there had indeed been political manipulation of the case against Zuma, contrived by the Mbeki leadership and connived at by the NPA. If ever there was a basis for an immediate vote of no confidence in the president, this is it.

What Judge Nicholson did do was affirm the rule of law. Between political manipulation from the Mbeki side and the virulent assault from the Zuma camp on the other, the judiciary and the integrity of the state’s legal institutions have been under immense pressure — raped from left and right, as it were. That they held firm and that an exemplary judgment was handed down is something from which the whole nation can draw strength. The rule of law provides better protection for Zuma (and all of us) than the homicidal invective so favoured by his supporters.

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