Amnesty mooted ‘as a way to unify ANC’

A full disclosure may shield President Jacob Zuma from jail time, with some within the ANC saying amnesty could be the much-needed tool to unify the factionalised party.

But such an official pardon is likely to hit a snag as Zuma and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) are trying to overturn a Pretoria High Court judgment, which found in favour of the DA’s assertion that the president be recharged with corruption.

ANC presidential hopeful Lindiwe Sisulu yesterday told City Press that amnesty for Zuma was an option as it would help to keep the ANC together.

“From time to time, the ANC does come around to discussing issues of amnesty,” she said when asked if a reprieve would be granted to Zuma.

City Press understands that while there are no formal talks about the president’s amnesty yet, some within the ANC have suggested this to test if there would be any appetite for it.

“The possibility of amnesty is something that is part and parcel of the character of the ANC,” said Sisulu.

“It would not be something that is out of the ordinary. My view, if I am elected leader of the ANC, would be to ensure that whatever happens, the best interests of the ANC prevails.”

Sisulu said she hoped Zuma would come clean and admit to mistakes he made during his tenure. “I do not think that he woke up in the morning and decided: ‘This is the route I am going to take.’”

Following the governing party’s watershed 2007 conference in Limpopo, which saw former president Thabo Mbeki unceremoniously ousted, a 10-member national working committee – led by Sisulu – was tasked with advising the ANC on the possibility of then newly elected party president Zuma being jailed on 783 charges of fraud, corruption, racketeering and money laundering.

The committee submitted to the NPA that charging Zuma would not be in the best interests of the country.

The charges were later dropped – eight years into the case and two weeks before the 2009 general elections.

Zuma and the NPA are appealing the court’s ruling, made in April last year, that the decision to drop the 783 charges was irrational and that Zuma had a case to answer.

And following last year’s Constitutional Court judgment, which found that Zuma had violated his oath of office with regard to nonsecurity upgrades at his Nkandla home, City Press heard that a delegation of elders in the party approached Zuma to raise the conversation about amnesty. Zuma is said to have been amenable to the talks but later abandoned them.

Sisulu said the ANC was currently divided into factions and that an intervention to unify the party was necessary.

“He will be forgiven as long as he tells the truth and is able to commit to working with everybody and to ensuring that we can reverse some of the problems that we are experiencing – and also to ensuring that those people who are so strongly attached to him are back in the fold.”

"There is too much arrogance"

The parallel drawn between unity and possible amnesty was also reinforced by first deputy general secretary of the SA Communist Party, Solly Mapaila.

“We have forgiven this comrade many times,” he said.

“Of course, there will always be room for amnesty if that space will be about deepening the unity of the revolutionary forces. But ... when there is too much arrogance, such that this comrade sometimes does not even see the damage he is causing to the movement – the mortal damage.”

Mapaila, who has been outspoken on Zuma’s dealings with the controversial Gupta family, also raised red flags about the legal implications of granting amnesty. “I just don’t understand what kind of an amnesty it will be if it is on wrongdoing. I think if we bend too much, we will reach a situation where we cannot even approve the general morality of society.

“We will break the rule of law in society, and a revolution without the rule of law – let alone the rule of revolutionary law – will be as much as finished. You have to weigh up the consequences with the impact on the revolution.”

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema rejected any offer of amnesty to Zuma.

“Let them give us the law which allows such. They must give us the law which would allow such nonsense,” he said, adding that the ANC’s loss of power would mean that the party would have no leverage to bring about amnesty. The ANC will not have power in 2019, and therefore it is not in any position to talk about amnesty to anyone. No, it will never happen.

“The arrest of Zuma is the beginning of arresting corruption. It has to start somewhere. It is not Zuma the person. When we say, ‘Arrest Zuma’, we mean arrest corruption.

“Once we give amnesty to Zuma, then we have given amnesty to corruption, and therefore corruption is institutionalised and it is fashionable and we will never arrest it. Therefore, we will never allow it.”

Attempts by Zuma’s detractors to get him to step down have thus far proved futile, and MPs will yet again battle Zuma in a motion of no confidence on August 8.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete is yet to decide on whether the motion will be conducted by secret ballot.

A close Zuma ally said the renewed talk of amnesty was “propaganda manufactured by enemies who want to push Zuma aside”. He anticipated that similar stories would be spread in the media in the period leading up to the December conference.

He said the rumour was intended “to convince the masses and members of the ANC to say that even when [Zuma] is offered something he is refusing, so he does not want to listen”.

He said Zuma had stated publicly and to the national executive committee “that if people want him to go, they must come to him quietly”.

“It must not come with strings attached, but as honest comradeship advice. But if it is an agenda that this person must go to speak to him, sent by foreign forces, we will not agree to that. If it is genuine and comrades are saying, ‘This is the challenge’, then he will consider,” he said.

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