Zuma, a man with as many lives as a cat

2009-01-17 00:00

AFRICAN National Congress president Jacob Zuma’s legal woes have been characterised as roller-coaster rides and constant changes of fortune for all involved, not least Zuma. First it was the “not winnable” prima facie corruption case against him by former National Prosecutions Authority boss Bulelani “prima facie” Ngcuka. When former president Thabo Mbeki dismissed his then deputy, just about all party leaders, with the exception of Inkatha Freedom Party president Mangosuthu Buthelezi, were dancing on what was meant to be Zuma’s grave.

Then it was the rape case that, according to many, just about ended his political career but “the cat with nine lives” emerged victorious, however scathed. Then there was the Forest Town raid which was later deemed illegal only for Judge Qedusizi Msimang to remove the case from the High Court roll because the National Prosecuting Authority did not only fail to put all its ducks in a row but failed because some of the ducks were not even there.

Just as in legal dramas such as Law & Order and Boston Legal, the NPA was relentless and tenacious as Zuma was recharged. Proceedings took place in August and September last year. Judge Chris Nicholson found in Zuma’s favour and Nicholson was unforgiving to the NPA and Mbeki’s executive.

There is another twist in the tale. Last week the NPA’s bid at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein succeeded and Zuma is now headed for the Constitutional Court. If that fails, he is likely to go the permanent stay of prosecution route, failing which a political solution is likely to be the next option on the long list of legal recourse.

Nicholson’s judgment and the subsequent one by Judge Louis Harms at the SCA are worlds apart but this is not new in the legal fraternity. One just has to remind oneself of the recent life sentence that was overturned and the accused was given parole after serving only two and a half years.

What would be interesting is how often verdicts are overturned and what options have been pursued to correct the discrepancy.

No person can predict what will happen in this roller-coaster case as unthinkable twists and turns have come to characterise it. One wonders if Zuma has any more energy to fight the latest onslaught and if the few options he has left in his reservoir will be enough to get the case out of his way, once and for all.

A lot may be unclear or straightforward but what is clear is that Zuma is a cat with nine lives as he has survived onslaughts that it was thought would paralyse, if not kill him. There are many forces at play in this never-ending Zuma saga than most of us care to understand. However many lives Zuma has left out of the nine is anyone’s guess.

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