The Miserable Ones

2015-06-13 18:44

In the Durban High Court on 6 May 2009, 16 charges (of racketeering, corruption, fraud and tax evasion) against President Jacob G.M. Zuma were withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). These 16 charges had over 700 incident counts in them.

On 8 May 2006, Judge Willem van der Merwe, acquitted Zuma of the rape charge, which had gripped the country in sensationalism and gossip. After the trial, the ANC restored Zuma’s full functions as party Deputy President. A few days after the trial Zuma apologized to the nation and the complainant, acknowledging his mistake.

"I wish to state categorically and place on record that I erred in having unprotected sex. I should have known better, and I should have acted with greater caution and responsibility. For this I unconditionally apologize to all the people of this country." Zuma 

Judge Squires found that Shabir Shaik, a Zuma confidant and personal financial advisor then, had made 238 payments to Zuma totaling R1, 2 million and that it was not because of a mere friendship between them. Because of this judgment, on the 14 June 2005, President Mbeki “relieved” Zuma of his duties as Deputy President of the country; he remained Deputy President of the ANC.

On 12 August 1963, Zuma, at the age of 21, Zuma was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to overthrow the government, spending a few months at Leeuwkop Prison before being transferred to Robben Island on 30 December 1963.

In a Robert Sobukwe style, upon Zuma’s release from Robben Island, on 29 December 1973, he was instead detained without trial in Pietermaritzburg police cells for two weeks before being exiled to Nkandla.

Like the 19th Century novel by Victor Hugo, Le Miserables, Jean Valjean, a fugitive who spent 19 years of his life as prisoner "24601" and police inspector Javert who hunts for him, Zuma could have been the hero Valjean himself.

The hound dogs have been with Zuma since his youth. Like Jean Valjean they are steadfastly on the prowl always seeking Zuma’s ultimate surrender, yet he refuses decade after decade.

The dropped 16 charges with several hundred counts including his personal home security upgrade overruns are in current focus.

Even though Advocate Madonsela said in her report on the upgrades, that she found “no political corruption.” The hound dogs aren’t having any of it. When corruption is mentioned, Nkandla comes in. Yet Madonsela couldn’t find any but incompetence, unethical behavior and the like, none of which could cause suspicion of corruption. In her wisdom, Madonsela, aiming to please the complainants and accused, she decided to offer each person something, ‘fining’ Zuma for not asking questions about cost and final design elements to his home and related state employees quarters. The ‘fine’ is the recommendation that Zuma pays for certain improvements to his property.

Zuma has in turn fired the Ministers involved and civil servants mentioned are going through disciplinary processes.

Contractors came to improve the security of Zuma and his family but were not security vetted. When the extended state employees and police control room was decided, no open tender was advertised as required. The state has gone after the lead contractor for damages of some R150 million. Some R206 million was spent on the property with about R150 million spent outside Zuma owned property making Zuma’s own homestead security cost some R50 million.

The narrative by hounds is that R206 million was spent in toto for Zuma and no one is interested to give factual numbers.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is for Zuma, Javert who was obsessed with tracking and re-imprisoning Valjean. There is no party rally or major speech that fails to hound Zuma.

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Mhlanganyelwa Zuma cannot escape his names; Mhlanganyelwa translates to ‘conspired against’.

In each of their encounters in the book, ‘Javert’ reminds ‘Valjean’ that he is a thief who will always return to committing crime. Here on earth, the electorate has no problem deciding which side justice and morality are on. On election day after election day, nobody roots for ‘Javert’ to catch ‘Valjean’ and return him to prison. The majority all want ‘Jean Valjean Zuma’ to remain free.

The saddest aspect of all of this is that the Democratic Alliance, Javert’s disciples, a political party, charges that the National Prosecuting Authority should be independent of politics in its work but has no qualms with political interference by the party in forcing the NPA to do as DA wants. It continues its efforts to portray everyone and everything as corrupt and unethical when it suits the party’s overtly political agenda.

When a major political party interferes with the NPA as DA has in taking the dropping of the 16 charges, the DA wants this not viewed as political interference but some moral good from a political party. In truth, the DA’s actions dressed up as dropped charges review litigation is political posturing and meddling of the worst sort and robs the NPA of the very independence the DA seeks to “protect”.

Incidentally, Zuma has instituted a Judicial Inquiry on the Arms Deal of which the Shaik judgement referred. Irrespective of terms of reference, a man that is trying to hide will not risk a public inquiry on the matter. He also instituted a forensic investigation by Special Investigative Unit on Nkandla matter. Again, a man who has anything to hide will not be as foolish to leave matters in the mercy of a public trial where accused have the full right to defend themselves even implicate others whilst doing so.

The NPA will get things right, and also get things wrong. Democracy is not an easy task. It means respecting decisions that do not necessarily suit us too.

South Africa is on the brink of practically rescinding the constitutional prescript of innocent until proven guilty; we are teetering on guilty until proven innocent, a Chairman Mao philosophy drummed up by the media and DA.

Zuma is most electable when he is seen victimized. He is more popular when hounded. It was the apartheid government hounding that got him elected into ANC NEC during apartheid. The same victimization rallies his constituency into a ring fence around him.

To all le miserables, persons are innocent until proven guilty in due and fair process. Winning arguments against charges and having them dropped is part of that very due and fair process.

Money has become the most important thing in South Africa. It is tearing the country apart. The value is not on life but money. Money related crimes or suspicions get a huge volume of media coverage, whereas other more dangerous issues are left unattended. The fight back campaign is still on, it started with 'gravy train' narratives to 'corruption' one.

It seems to me Zuma is fully aware of the need to defray part costs on items that have dual use in his Nkandla homestead.

Bongani 'Bo' Mbindwane

twitter: @mbindwane

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