By NDABEZINHLE SIBIYA
I HAVE BEEN inundated with requests on my inbox for my personal comments following the reinstatement of charges against former President of the Republic of South Africa His Excellency J.G Zuma.
Interestingly, I have followed this case for years and at one stage I analysed how the media was reporting about it.
Though I have refused the temptation to comment, perhaps it is important to reflect on the case especially leading up to Polokwane Conference.
Prior to the Polokwane conference, branches and delegates debated about and evaluated many of the talented leaders of the ANC in the context of who will best lead the organisation and our country during that time – they said Zuma was that person.
Contrary to media reports of the Polokwane conference, the decision to elect Zuma for President was a sober one. The debate had gone on informally for over ten years. It was started at the time when the ANC was discussing the post-Mandela leadership in 1997. There was careful thinking which resulted in the decision that Mbeki would succeed Madiba and after two terms Zuma would take over.
The decision was based on the fact that the two were amongst most experienced and respected strategists, who had served together since the days of OR Tambo. Mbeki was primarily preferred as he would be able to focus on issues of transformation of the state machinery, because of his technical skills which we believed the country needed at the time.
Zuma was elected to deputise and strengthen Mbeki’s leadership collective because of his excellent human relations, listening skills and capacity to unify. It was felt that, inevitably, Zuma’s leadership would be needed to refocus attention on the vision of the ANC to build a compassionate and caring society. His passion for education, rural development, fighting poverty and crime is legendary. It was felt that Zuma would further enhance the consultative character of our organisation once the transformation agenda was in place after Mbeki.
When ANC members decided that Zuma would be the Presidential candidate everything about him (both negative and positive) was known. Electing Zuma was a conscious decision. As an expression of a democratic process, it had to be respected. The mark of true democrats is to accept the due processes of democracy and not change goal posts if they dislike the outcome.
Zuma had been investigated for nine years, during which he proclaimed his innocence. He never missed a day in court since he was only charged in 2005. It was the NPA’s inability to proceed with a prosecution that led the case being thrown out of court by Judge Msimang.
When his offices were raided by the Scorpions, together with his lawyers, they successfully challenged the Scorpions in court, which declared the searches to be unlawful. It was the NPA that appealed. It was strange that each time the NPA and Scorpions lost a case against Zuma it was acceptable to take matters to a higher court. Yet if Zuma did the same, he was accused of delaying court appearance.
Zuma repeated his position that he had no fear of the processes of justice. He has always used them to assert his rights to a fair trial. The objection by Zuma to the charges a week after his election as President of ANC resulted in Judge Nicholson finding in Zuma’s favour. It was the NPA that appealed.
It is possible that this case may never have proceeded if the NPA had opened the avenue for representations. It may have become apparent much earlier, that no crime had been committed.
That Shaik was found guilty is no confirmation that Zuma is similarly guilty simply because his name was mentioned in court. He could not be found guilty without being party to court proceedings. Repetition of allegations against Zuma in the media during that period created a false sense of guilt in the mind of the public.
Political parties opposed to NPA considering Zuma’s submissions at that time were themselves bordering on interfering in the institutions of justice. Why would the NPA be right to take Zuma to court and be wrong to exercise a provision specified in the constitution?
During the period leading up to Polokwane, extensive use of media by the state institutions resulted in prejudice against Zuma by people who professed to respect the rule of law.
It was strange that during this ordeal, the main issue that was debated was Zuma’s suitability for Presidency, confirming the information in ANC circles that the investigations were used to frustrate his election to Presidency. This is the reason why the contestations in the ANC conference in Polokwane had been so fierce. The issues, in this case, were more political than legal.
When Zuma was accused of corruption in the Arms Procurement process, it was not equally stated that he was not the party to the arms deal negotiation, nor was the Minister of Defence Musiuoa Lekota ever asked to account or resign for presiding over the process. Very little was said of the chairperson of the entire process even though it was known that it was the President who authored the letter that was extensively highlighted in the Shaik trial.
Over the next few days, the nation will hear whether JG Zuma’s lawyer may want to take the NPA’s decision on review. Or Perhaps, reinstating the charges against Zuma and having him explain himself in the court of law will help the country have closure on this matter that has traumatized and divided society for years.
Hopefully, the truth will finally come out and when this ordeal is over many will realize that we allowed ourselves to be swayed by the repeated publication of untested allegations; hence we tacitly endorsed the persecution of an individual simply because the trial by public media was better presented than the case of his innocence.
In years to come all the weaknesses causing public excitement will fade and pale to insignificance.
Posterity will look back at the first twenty-four years of our young democracy with pride and marvel at the contribution made by the finest sons of Africa who laid the foundation for this great nation. Each will have their footprints and legacy recorded:
- Madiba, the father of our rainbow nation, peace and reconciliation;
• Mbeki for the transformation of the state institutions and advocate of the African agenda;
• Motlanthe who managed the interregnum and allowed the nation to heal; and
• Zuma who ensured the participation of South Africa in the BRICS bloc mounted a successful fight against HIV and Aids, fought for Radical Economic Transformation and ensured Free Education.