D-day looms

2009-01-10 00:00

Monday’s judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeal will be a significant step in the ongoing legal contestation of the charges against ANC president Jacob Zuma. The point at issue is still not Zuma’s guilt or innocence, but whether the prosecution, interrupted by Judge Chris Nicholson’s ruling last year, can again proceed. If the Appeal Court agrees with Nicholson that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) erred in not giving Zuma the opportunity to make representations before the fraud and corruption charges were laid, the charges will fall away and Zuma will (for the moment) be free of them. If the court differs with Nicholson, the prosecution will be back on track, with massive implications for the party that Zuma leads as it launches its election campaign.

The political implications will be compounded by the court’s ruling on a second matter; whether Nicholson was correct to include in his judgment the finding that there had been political interference in the case against Zuma. The great shift in the nation’s political life — the unseating of former president Thabo Mbeki, the split in the ruling party and the emergence of a potentially major rival party — was set in motion by that ruling.

The credibility both of Zuma’s leadership and of the NPA are at stake. Given the huge political implications of its decisions, it must be hoped that the Appeal Court will adhere to the democratic principle of the separation of powers and make its findings on purely juridical grounds.

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