Zunami strikes some headwinds

2008-08-09 00:00

Is the so-called Zuma tsunami running out of puff? Events of the past few days suggest that the “unstoppable wave” that Jacob Zuma and his Leftist allies warned would sweep all before it is floundering a little.

The threats from the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) of judicial

exorcism — getting rid of “counter-revolutionary” judges or maybe killing them, if one takes seriously the rants of the African National Congress Youth League’s Julius Malema — appear to have left the judiciary stoically unmoved. Eleven Constitutional Court judges last week unanimously ruled against one of Zuma’s many applications, without skipping a beat. On another aspect their ruling against him was 10-1.

The Bench further suggested that pretrial motions designed to delay cases from going to trial, part of Zuma’s Stalingrad strategy to contest every inch of territory, should be discouraged by the lower courts.

Then the predicted 10 000 Zuma supporters who were going to paralyse Pietermaritzburg, site of the next stage in his legal struggle, just didn’t materialise. A few thousand were bussed in, but the disruption didn’t happen, in spite of an array of African National Congress (ANC) luminaries there to cheer them on.

None of this means that Zuma will not be South Africa’s next president. The ANC has made it clear that if he fails to delay his trial until after he is made president next March, and he is found guilty, a mechanism will be found to overturn both the verdict and the sentence.

But what is important is that the façade of aggrieved innocence that Zuma has sheltered behind and from whence he with impunity hurled rocks at the judiciary is being abandoned. In Pietermaritzburg Zuma, probably unintentionally, cut to the nub of it all: if the state continued to pursue him on corruption charges, he would expose everybody implicated in the arms deal sleaze and reveal the “whole truth”.

Even by the dismal standards of the Zuma Lefties FC, this is something of an own goal. At the very least, it is an admission by Zuma that he knows of criminal irregularities, the unstated corollary being that he likely was part of them.

This blows a hole in the image that the Left has cultivated of Zuma as unfairly persecuted. It seems then that their resentment stems from others getting off scot-free while their man takes the rap, and has nothing to do with him being a framed innocent.

It is perplexing that Zuma should make such a silly threat and one so damaging to himself. It may be a sign of frustration at having failed to get President Thabo Mbeki to call off the prosecutorial attack dogs. On the other hand, it might just be another example of his machine-gun mouth firing before his brain’s safety catch was engaged.

Since before this self-incriminating statement, there was a fog of culpability around Zuma that even his most passionate supporters must be finding difficult to ignore. Without questioning his right in law to be presumed innocent by the courts, Zuma’s behaviour adds to this miasma of doubt.

While he had every legal right to challenge the admissibility of the 93 000 or so documents seized in police raids, surely not even SACP leader Blade Nzimande believes that these papers would do anything but bolster the corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges that Zuma faces? They are clearly not going to exonerate him.

The court of public opinion works to far less exacting procedural and evidential standards than a court of law. To the public mind, here and abroad, Zuma behaves like someone with a lot to hide. Unfortunately, being tarnished is no disqualification for being president.

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