Zuma 'can be charged again'

Cape Town - While Jacob Zuma's supporters danced and cheered when they heard that his corruption case had been struck off the roll of the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Wednesday, political parties fired off more-restrained reaction.

"Technically, Mr Zuma can be charged again," warned Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder.

"If it is done shortly before the ANC's congress in 2007, it could knock him out of the leadership battle. It may be legally possible, but it will have far-reaching consequences politically."

The African National Congress, of which Zuma is deputy president said: "As it has maintained throughout this matter, the ANC respects the rule of law and the decisions of the judiciary.

"The ANC therefore calls on all South Africans to respect the judgment handed down today by Judge Herbert Msimang."

Spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama extended appreciation to party members for their support of Zuma.

'Justice prevails'

The ANC's alliance partners, the Congress of SA Trade Unions and the SA Communist Party, were more exuberant.

"The courts in Pietermaritzburg have struck off the case of Jacob Zuma!" announced Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi to cheering delegates at their congress in Midrand.

"There is a difference between rumour-mongering and actual justice in a court of law... For today, justice prevails," Vavi told delegates who jumped on chairs and sang Zuma's trademark song Awuleth'umshini wami (Bring me my machine gun).

The SACP said: "...we always have maintained that comrade Jacob Zuma has not been treated fairly by the national prosecuting authority.

"We equally feel vindicated on the stances we have taken on this matter. The judgment is also a serious indictment on the behaviour of the NPA," said spokesperson Malesela Maleka.

The Democratic Alliance however, cautioned against early triumphalism on the part of Zuma's supporters.

"Judge Herbert Msimang's decision today that the Jacob Zuma corruption case could be struck from the roll is not the end for the corruption case; it is a temporary reprieve rather than absolution," said Sheila Camerer, the official opposition's justice spokeswoman.

Political implications 'enormous'

She said the prosecution team could bring the case back to court later, but needed to iron out difficulties first.

However, the political implications of the ruling were enormous because in the "court of public opinion" Zuma's claims of victimisation had been given "judicial respectability," making it difficult to re-open the case.

The Inkatha Freedom Party said it wondered why the State was seemingly not ready to conduct its case against Zuma three years after former Scorpions head Bulelani Ngcuka had said there was a prima facie case against him.

"The question is why is the case not ready to proceed," said Koos van der Merwe, IFP justice spokesperson.

"This is judicial nonsense. If they (the State) have a case against Zuma they should have prosecuted him - and, if they don't have a case, they should let him go because he has suffered enough."

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille said it was unfortunate the case had been struck off.

"Zuma has on numerous occasions said he wanted his day in court, so he, too, should be disappointed.

"Now we have denied Zuma the opportunity to give his side of the story and a very dark cloud will hang over his reputation for life.

"I hope that the NPA will bring charges against him when they have got their act together and have built their case in a more-professional manner than this time round," said De Lille.

African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe said he was not surprised.

"For years we've been saying the government must improve the investigative capacity of the police.

Still a cloud over his head

"There are too many serious cases that have been thrown out of court for lack of sufficient evidence.

"So, the fact that (this case) was thrown out of court today will be a wake-up call to the government."

United Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa said the judge had not done Zuma any favours, and that the former deputy president still had a cloud hanging over his head.

He said Zuma's supporters seemed not to recognise his continuing run of misfortune.

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