Zuma to put the ANC on trial

Former president Jacob Zuma. (File, City Press)
Former president Jacob Zuma. (File, City Press)

The drama regarding former president Jacob Zuma's corruption saga is about to reach another level and a very interesting level indeed. 

After failing to quell corruption charges against him throughout his wasted presidency, Zuma will finally tell his version of the story in court, but not without further trying to bury the case before it even reaches the court. 

It has been reported that Zuma plans to challenge the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) decision to prosecute him. Even though the NPA is a reluctant prosecutor in this case, chances are that they will successfully haul Zuma to court. 

The big story, however, will be told in court when Msholozi opens his mouth for the first time about the substance of corruption charges he has ducked for a decade. 

Zuma will certainly further politicise the matter and drag the ANC down with him if it comes to that. He is reported to be crafting a defence that says all that he did wrong was to allow for black companies to benefit from the arms deal. In his mind, as it has been reported, he only influenced the process of the arms deal to benefit black companies. 

This is a very crafty defence which will certainly put the ANC on trial in the year the party is supposed to be campaigning for elections. If indeed there has been an element of black economic empowerment (BEE) in the arms deal, the ANC will have to answer to some of the questions that will be fired in Zuma's direction. 

By bringing in BEE as part of his defence, Zuma is actually saying that he did not act alone in the process and that he did not act to his own, selfish benefit because he was a deployed cadre. 

This will make things very difficult for the ANC in the sense that the party will come across as a conduit of corruption; a point that some of us have been making for a while now. 

Whether or not his defence succeeds, it will surely harm the ANC and may also create an opportunity for the NPA to charge some members of the party to answer to corruption.

The problem with the arms deal is that a strong case can be made that Zuma indeed tried to protect the ANC by appointing a commission of inquiry that would necessarily become a 'whitewash'. 

Some NGOs (Corruption Watch and Right2Know) have already sought to challenge the findings of the Seriti Commission of Inquiry in court. This suspicion is so strong that it persuaded the then public protector, Thuli Madonsela, to recommend that the commission of inquiry into state capture is Seriti-proof. 

As far as the controversial arms deal is concerned, the only person who knows where the bodies are buried has to be Jacob Zuma, and he is starting to talk even before setting foot in court. The former president is already implicating the ANC by saying the party's BEE policy incentivised his conducts. 

This is the beginning of a nightmare for the ANC and the opposition parties must be smacking their lips after struggling on how to take it to the ANC since Cyril Ramaphosa took over early in the year. 

Once he takes the stand and starts responding to questions by lawyers, Zuma will be spitting all over the place and the ANC will most likely be contaminated. If the ANC distances itself from Zuma and tries to isolate him further, he will go further on the rampage. If the party stays quiet, that would mean they agree with what Zuma is alleging. 

At this point in time, the only job worse than being Donald Trump's spokesperson, is being the ANC's spokesperson. Pule Mabe has his job cut out for him. 

Even worse for Mabe is that, if he strongly denies Zuma will be singing in court, his party might be called upon take a stand and testify. The only statement that can be made by the ANC is that "the case is still underway and we will respond accordingly". This still does not stop the opposition parties from having all the fun about what would be aired by Zuma in court. 

Considering that the state capture inquiry will be underway as well this year, the ANC needs more than just a spokesperson: it needs a fulltime denial officer!   

- Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and author of When Zuma Goes

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