Toxic influence

2009-04-09 00:00

A disturbing feature of the saga which led to the dropping of the charges against Jacob Zuma is the way in which rivalry within the ANC has undermined essential organs of the state. The reasons given by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for its decision to withdraw the charges make this abundantly clear. It had nothing to do with the merits of the case and everything to do with an attempted manipulation of the judicial process for purely party-political reasons. Leonard McCarthy, then director of the Scorpions, and Bulelani Ncguka, former director of the NPA, according to taped telephone conversations between them, wanted a new set of charges to be laid against Zuma before the ANC’s Polokwane conference in December 2007 in the hope that this would assist in securing Thabo Mbeki’s re-election as ANC president.

The political fall-out within the ANC at Polokwane and afterwards was the kind of development to be expected sometimes in the rough-and-tumble of party politics. What is not acceptable and deeply endangers the wellbeing of the country is when rivalry of this sort begins to infect state institutions, the hallmark of which should be one of independence. With stark clarity this is what has emerged within the NPA where, so it is claimed, political conspiracy has poisoned its operations. This in turn raises the probing question: where does the NPA’s independence end and party-political allegiance begin? The same question arises in the current controversy between John Hlope, president of the Cape High Court, and the judges of the Constitutional Court. His alleged attempt to influence two Concourt judges to support an appeal being made by Zuma’s lawyers lies at the heart of the matter.

A major part of the problem is that the ANC government has too often placed its own supporters into positions of responsibility in institutions of the state. How can the necessary integrity and impartiality of such institutions be maintained in these circumstances?

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