Zuma case: Mbeki and cabinet come in for a drubbing

2008-09-12 00:00

Political and academic commentators from across the political spectrum yesterday described the judgment by Judge Chris Nicholson in the application to have the decision to prosecute Jacob Zuma declared invalid as a “shocking indictment” on Mbeki and his cabinet, saying they should take full responsibility for the debacle.

“A stunning blow to President Thabo Mbeki and his cabinet.” This was how constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos described the judgment.

Responding to the verdict, De Vos, who is professor of law at the University of Western Cape, said the judgement makes Mbeki’s position “untenable” in relation to the leadership of the African National Congress.

“It has been made clear now that there has been political interference in the Zuma case and that Zuma should have been charged long ago with Mr [Schabir] Shaik. There will be serious political repurcussions,” De Vos said.

He said that despite the fact that the judge said the NPA could still charge Zuma, this could prove difficult because of the “political machinations” that have gone on.

“Whether the NPA is strong enough … we will have to see. They have every right to go ahead with charges,’’ De Vos said.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said the judgment should not be seen as an acquittal.

“Mr Zuma remains a suspect with a cloud hanging over his head, and a former financial advisor in prison for committing fraud and corruption,” Holomisa said.

He described the case as one of the most complex the NPA has ever faced. “It is also pivotal that the question of whether there are undue political motives behind the prosecution of Mr Zuma be resolved; that too, can best be achieved in an open court.”

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said decisions will be taken after the judgement has been discussed at next Friday’s ANC, NEC meeting and again at a meeting of the alliance leaders on September 24 and 25.

ANC president Jacob Zuma himself called yesterday’s ruling a “lesson to the legal fraternity” and a victory for the country’s fledgling democracy.

“The rule of law is important to any democracy. We respect the judiciary, but all that we ask for is that people in the law profession should also respect the judicial system.

“I hope that the law organs will look at this judgment dispassionately so that they do not cause the country any more harm,” he said.

Addressing thousands of his supporters who converged outside the court yesterday, Zuma said there are valuable lessons to be learnt from the ruling.

“This is also a lesson that we should not keep quiet when those in positions of power abuse their powers to oppress those without power.”

Zuma also said that the ruling has given him “more ammunition” that he can use against the prosecution should he be re-charged. He ended by thanking the leadership of the ANC alliance, amakhosi, religious leaders and all his supporters.

“You have given me hope because you have showed that you are prepared to defend our democracy and the rights of ordinary citizens.”

He also praised Judge Chris Nicholson saying: “the judge was sober, clear and articulate”.

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