Gerrie Nel shows how Zuma should have been prosecuted

2014-03-27 11:46

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By the time prosecutor Gerrie Nel closed the state’s case on Tuesday, South Africa had been on trial for a full three weeks.

From the outset, I had watched with a growing sense of panic as my friends in the broadcast media and at the 24-hour Big Broth- ... I mean Oscar Pistorius Trial channel, continued to add to the number of “accused” seated in the dock at the North Gauteng High Court.

Also on trial were the media, Twitter, the judiciary, Pistorius’ family, the police, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the justice system.

Some of my more cerebral colleagues, cursing their unhappy lot at being assigned to this God-awful court pageantry, added even more trialists: all South African men, cross-examination in the justice system and also the minds of white people, in which reside imaginary black intruders.

Faced with the damning realisation that, at best, I was an accused at least three times over, I decided to fall back on what I’m best at: Jacob Zuma and corruption charges.

I beg your indulgence. Many imaginary trials do involve important conversations.

Indeed, it appears the South African police, and the forensic services in particular, would be incapable of putting an open-and-shut case together if an entire Nyala-load of ranking officers witnessed a murder before their very eyes.

(In my hypothetical scenario the cops are unarmed.)

The international – and some local journalists – could barely contain their excitement when the first evidence of cop bungling emerged.

We must forgive them if they feel somewhat cheated by prosecutors Gerrie Nel and Andrea Johnson.

The evidence of police bungling did not come in explosive concessions painstakingly extracted under cross-examination.

Nel simply had the police witnesses admit to the cock-ups.

Watching it all unfold, I couldn’t help but think of the “spy tapes” that got President Jacob Zuma off the hook on corruption charges.

The commendable manner in which Nel and Johnson have conducted the Pistorius case is exactly the way that Zuma should have been prosecuted for alleged corruption.

Instead of having Mokotedi Mpshe take a democratically opaque decision about the dropping of corruption charges against Zuma, the prosecution could simply have put this “damning” evidence before a judge.

As Hong Kong judge Conrad Seagroatt, who was plagiarised by Mpshe in his reasoning for dropping corruption charges against Zuma, said: “It is very strongly possible that he [Mpshe] should have let the trial process begin before a judge ... being entirely candid [as he should be] as to the conduct of the investigative and prosecuting agencies.”

I would like to ask my compatriots if we can, at the very least, take Nel, Johnson and the NPA off trial in this particular case.

While there is still a very long way to go in the case, the prosecuting team has ensured that Pistorius had a proper case to answer and that the usual recourse open to the rich and famous – escaping on technicalities and blunders – was not open to him.

The fact that Nel charges Pistorius with a schedule six offence and opposed bail meant that Pistorius had to commit to a version of events, a version, which most legal experts agree is still his most significant hurdle in facing down a murder charge.

Read: Oscar Pistorius trial: Top 10 questions for the defence

They have done exactly what prosecutors should do: prosecute with integrity.

I wonder how many such prosecutors remain at the NPA.

(I would like to apologise to the ANC in advance for the timing of this.)

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