Zuma goes to war

2018-04-08 05:55
Former president Jacob Zuma. (GCIS)

Former president Jacob Zuma. (GCIS)

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Former president Jacob Zuma is planning a long, drawn-out battle to fight corruption charges – a battle that will take place inside the courts and on the streets.

But an increasingly dire financial situation could hamper the multipronged strategy that Zuma and his supporters launched this week. City Press learnt that up to R1m had to be hustled together this week to foot the bill for buses, posters and T-shirts. This bled the shoestring budget that had been put together.

Zuma finally had his day in court on Friday after eight years of exhaustive, but failed, legal challenges to fend off the charges. He now plans a fresh round of applications and appeals that could indefinitely delay the start of the trial, which the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) wants to begin in November.

Zuma’s legal representatives said they would lodge a review application against the NPA’s decision to reinstate charges against him which, they said, would be completed by the end of May.

That application — should it fail — is likely to be followed by an application for a permanent stay of prosecution. The case was postponed to June 8 but the state said it was ready for the trial to begin on November 12.

One of the options previously considered by Zuma’s defence team was to raise as a defence the legal principle of double jeopardy — which provides that a person cannot be charged for the same crime more than once.

‘DOWN WITH RAMAPHOSA’

The pro-Zuma campaign has acquired a distinct anti-Ramaphosa tone.

When it kicked off on Thursday night with a night vigil at a park in central Durban, there was denunciation of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the new ANC leadership.

A speaker from the Umkhonto weSizwe Veterans’ Association (MK) chanted: “Down with Cyril Ramaphosa, down,” to which the crowd responded in affirmation.

The speaker, who was not identified by name, boasted that although he was not educated he was trained to use guns. He said he rejected the directive of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) not to associate the party with Zuma’s trial.

Urging the crowd to defy directives from the “rotten” NEC, which served the interests of the “Ruperts and Oppenheimers”, he called for an urgent national general council (NGC) which would remove the current leadership. NGCs are normally called halfway through the term of the leadership to assess the implementation of the resolutions of the last conference.

The MK man said Ramaphosa was not talking radical economic transformation and was instead talking concepts such as “new deal” and “new dawn” that were not known in the ANC. “How can such a person lead us?” he asked.

The defiance of Ramaphosa and his executive was apparent by the presence of several NEC members at the court hearing.

Even the ANC’s elections head, Fikile Mbalula, appeared to be privately backing the Zuma cause. Mbalula was heard in an audio recording on Friday – the authenticity of which was verified – questioning the ANC’s stance on Zuma.

“The only thing which is the problem is the ANC’s new leadership is actually involving itself in a case that they do not know by making stupid calls and many other things,” Mbalula said in a discussion.

Mbalula said it was wrong for the ANC to say that people must not go to court and even treat Zuma as if he is convicted when he is just an accused.

‘MONEY WOES’

City Press has learnt that despite determined fundraising efforts “funders are not as easy to come by as they were in the past and that’s quite a major issue”.

Zuma supporters are now planning to revive the Friends of Jacob Zuma campaign platform — which was the central portal for pro-Zuma messages and fundraising efforts before he became president in 2009.

Zuma suffered a blow on Friday when the presidency took a decision to withdraw an appeal against a judgment for which he personally will carry the costs for his attempts to have former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s state capture report set aside.

Adding to Zuma’s legal woes is the DA’s Pretoria High Court application for the state to stop funding his lawyers. DA federal executive chairperson James Selfe said Zuma had at least two weeks to file responding papers to its application.

“They have not lodged their papers yet so we will know only in a week and a half what their [Zuma’s legal team] defence will be,” Selfe said.

Zuma camp insiders said delays in the filing of his court papers were as a result of uncertainty about whether the state will continue to pay his legal fees.

‘TAKING THE BATTLE TO THE STREETS’

The loose groupings surrounding Zuma – which include taxi associations, funeral undertakers and charismatic churches – intend to stage a fierce fightback to intensify the “street battle” that began this week.

Speaking to thousands of supporters outside the court on Friday, Zuma signalled that the fight would take place on many levels. He raised questions about whether he would have a fair trial given that these charges had been in the public domain since 2005.

He led the crowd in singing Sengimanxebanxeba, a famous Zulu song associated with regiments and which talks of betrayal by one’s own comrades.

Zuma said that Judge Chris Nicholson had found correctly in 2008 that there were political manoeuvres behind the case, despite the fact that his ruling was overturned on appeal.

In his speech Zuma said he would defend himself. He said several times, to loud cheers, that it was a pity that beating up people was no longer allowed otherwise he would have resorted to that.

He launched into a famous Zulu war song Ngimanxeba nginje, which talks of betrayal by one’s own comrades.

‘DISCREDIT THE JUDICIARY’

Zuma’s corner includes seeking a judicial review based on allegations locally and abroad in the UK that the South African judiciary is compromised and cannot give him a fair trial.

The argument regarding the credibility of the courts is focused on the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), a public interest and human rights law clinic. Many of South Africa’s judges have at some point or another been associated with the LRC, serving as trustees or doing pro-bono work for the nongovernmental organisation (NGO) when they were practising lawyers.

The LRC, according to Zuma supporters, is funded by the same organisations that fund a number of NGOs that have taken government to court and in most cases got favourable judgments.

A UK citizen named Justin Lewis has written to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and Ramaphosa calling on them to cease the Zuma trial pending finality of investigations in the UK courts and a UK parliamentary inquiry into “corruption in SA affecting UK institutions”.

Zuma’s son, Edward, told City Press that he was aware of the UK investigations and there was a cooperation agreement between him and those behind the cases to support the charges of state capture that he had laid against business tycoon Johann Rupert.

‘NO FAIR TRIAL’

Close Zuma ally Carl Niehaus said: “The most important argument is that you need to have a free and fair trial, which is provided for in the Constitution and everyone is entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“The legal argument for me that is the strongest is that after 15 years of negative publicity and attacks against Zuma, how did that poison the general atmosphere and how does that influence the possibility of a fair trial?”

Niehaus said: “The judiciary has to address this issue.”

He said there had definitely been political interference from the beginning of the case in 2003.

“We seem to have forgotten what (former NPA head) Bulelani Ngcuka did when he held a special briefing with journalists and tried to convince them that there was a prima facie case to influence the whole event.”

Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama said that “the first big question that must be overcome by the state is the question of justice delayed is justice denied”.

“It is clear that they have a very weak case and this is just political persecution.”

He questioned the NPA’s flip-flop on the decision to prosecute, saying “it is political pressure and I think Zuma will make a big point about that”.

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