Political Watch

Corruption charges – final word on Zuma not spoken yet

NPA-head, Shaun Abrahams
Abrahams.jpg

President Jacob’s “day in court” on 783 charges of alleged corruption remains as elusive as ever and the true reasons for it are neither black or white. Simplistic answers simply just do not exist.

 As could be expected with crucial local government election only weeks away, the opposition Democratic Alliance, which in the first instance brought the court application for the re-instatement of the charges, immediately claimed the decision of the National Prosecuting authority (NPA) to appeal against the judgement on their original application as “a delaying tactic to shield Zuma from facing the charges against him.”

That might well be the main reason, but for a full perspective it should be kept in mind that the High Court on 29 April only ruled that the reasons for the NPA’s original decision in 2009 not to press charges against Mr Zuma “was irrational “. It did not order that the charges per se should be re-instated.

If the judgement had indeed been that the charges should be re-introduced, the “shield” claim would have been pretty straight forward or the onus to appeal would have been on Mr. Zuma.

That would have made for a totally different ball game, posing, amongst other, the question of whether the president could continue with his normal duties while formally facing serious criminal charges.

The situation, however, does leave room for the NPA to argue, as it does, that questions about the principle of separation of powers and the independence of the NPA do arise.

Long not over

Be that as it may, it is clear that the matter of Mr. Zuma’s innocence or not on the charges against him is far from over and is due to cast a dark cloud over the South African political scene for some time to come.

It is unlikely that the appeal process will be completed before 3 August this year, the date of the local elections. It is also probably true that the perception of delaying tactics, as put forward by the DA, is and will remain the dominant one with the majority of public at large.

The implication is also that the uncertainty over the future of Mr. Zuma, and sustained stability in the country will linger at a time when the economy and investor confidence accompanying it can be ill afforded.

Also read: Dark Zuma clouds of political uncertainty over SA

It is also sure to be a constant and dominant factor in the developing election campaign, set to pick up momentum after 3 August was formally proclaimed as the election date on Monday.

The way this issue is, and has been developing for some time will, also perpetuate and strengthen the perception that the ANC and Mr Zuma in particular has establish an iron grip on key institutions of the state.

Gordhan  

The NPA’s announcement of its appeal against the judgement regarding the Zuma charges was also accompanied by a statement on another issue which created much uncertainty – the rumour that the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan was about to be arrested on charges connected with illegal espionage activities.

The head of the NPA, Shaun Abrahams, gave assurances that “There are no charges being investigated against Minister Gordhan‚”

He, however, effectively did acknowledge that alleged illegal activities of a so-called rogue spy unit in the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is being investigated and did not rule out the possibility of it leading to legal steps being taken against Minister Gordhan.

In this regard he said: “In the event that the Minister is implicated‚ I will make the decision ….” and that the “case could not be investigated in the public domain.

“ I implore you to respect the process of the investigation. Stop playing with our economy‚” he urged commentators and politicians speculating on the case.

Role of Zuma’s friends

Abrahams was aiming his shots about harm to the economy at some politicians, commentators and the media, taking offence at the way he was portrayed by cartoonists in the media as having been swayed by politicians, saying “I’m not a passenger in anyone’s vehicle.”

Also read: ANC state capture – SA in very serious trouble

                  Will state security smoke and mirrors clear?

The previous week, however, it came to light that it was one of the Gupta- family, accused of state capture as close friends of Mr Zuma that brought the issue of Mr. Gordhan’s arrest into the public domain.

Whatever the eventual outcome of the NPA’s appeal, if Mr. Abrahams at the end of the process decides not to give Mr. Zuma his day in court, the perception that he was “a passenger in someone’s vehicle‚” will stick.

by Piet Coetzer

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