Charges ‘won’t hurt Zuma’

2007-12-31 00:00

The reinstatement of charges against ANC president Jacob Zuma will not harm his political popularity, analysts said yesterday. Charges including corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering were recently served on Zuma by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). He will go on trial in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on August 14, 2008.

Steven Friedman, research associate at the Institute for Democracy in SA (Idasa), said Zuma’s supporters will not be swayed and their criticism of the NPA is nothing new.

“Most people knew there was a chance that he would be charged again,” he said yesterday.

He said the outcry is part of the negotiation process in the Zuma camp itself. There is speculation that some people in the camp itself do not want Zuma to become the country’s president.

Professor Adam Habib, vice rector for research at the University of Johannesburg, said the timing of the serving of the indictment could well raise eyebrows, but this is not really significant.

He said that although they will not damage Zuma’s popularity, the new charges do have political implications.

“Firstly, they make the possibility of a partnership between Zuma and President Thabo Mbeki in the two centres of power [the ANC and the government], very difficult.

“Secondly, Zuma’s case will coincide with the general election, and this is something the opposition will hammer. There might be a call within the ANC that Zuma should not stand for president,” he said.

In the meantime, the acting head of the NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe, has denied that Mbeki is behind the reinstatement of the charges.

“It’s absolute nonsense. [Mbeki] did not even know we were going to charge [Zuma] or what we were going to charge him with. It had nothing to do with the president.”

Mpshe told the Sunday Independent that ANC members knew during the Polokwane conference that Zuma would be prosecuted again soon. “That’s what they were expecting, but it never happened because we are not moved by what is happening, be it a political conference or any political issues; we just do our job”

Zuma’s supporters, including the SACP, Cosatu and the ANC Youth League, reacted sharply to the timing of the charges, saying it was designed to undermine Zuma’s popularity.

Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, said on Friday that the “haste” with which the charges were served on Zuma, in the middle of the holiday period, supported the old suspicion that the prosecution is politically inspired.

Critics implied that Mbeki and his supporters were behind the timing.

The case against Zuma was scrapped from the court roll when the prosecution was not ready to proceed. The Constitutional Court is considering an appeal by Zuma and Hulley asking that warrants for searches of Zuma’s house and office, and Hulley’s office, and the seizure of documents in Mauritius, be set aside.

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