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Andrew Feinstein

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Zuma reprieve will undermine the foundation of our democracy

I was shocked to read that the NPA is seriously considering dropping corruption and fraud charges against Jacob Zuma.

To protect the country’s likely-to-be president in this way will be an unmitigated disaster for South Africa and our nascent democracy, for the ANC and for Zuma himself.

The National Prosecuting Authority, one of the most important institutions of our criminal justice system, will be perceived to have bowed to political pressure.

This will fuel the view that justice is not done in a country buffeted by excessive levels of crime and corruption.

It will, in a stroke, undermine the very foundation of our democracy: that all are equal before the law.

It will make a mockery of any attempts by an ANC-led government to combat corruption at all levels of the state.

And it will send a message to investors that our legal system is malleable to political whim, thereby increasing the risk premium of doing business in South Africa.

But, most important of all, it will jettison the moral fabric of our country and its ruling party, onto the stinking slagheap of the arms deal and its cover-up, Oilgate and its cover-up, Travelgate and its cover-up, the Chancellor House fiasco and the unconscionable release of Schabir Shaik.

And let us not forget the even greater moral failings of the years of Aids denialism.

The NPA’s reputation will be shot.

For this is the organisation that claimed a prime facie case against Zuma many years ago, when Shaik was first charged and has claimed to be building its already strong case with additional evidence ever since.

As someone closely linked with aspects of the case from my time investigating the arms deal in Parliament, I can say without equivocation that Jacob Zuma has a case to answer.

First, it is important to bear in mind that prosecutors wanted to charge Shaik and Zuma together, because their actions were inextricably linked.

In effect, Shaik was found guilty of soliciting money for Zuma in return for which Zuma used his office to benefit Shaik’s companies.

In the NPA’s rejection of Shaik’s appeal against having to forfeit R33-million of ill-gotten assets the Constitutional Court reaffirmed the relationship between his conviction and Zuma’s actions in the most explicit terms:

“Counsel for the appellants (Shaik and his companies) very properly conceded in argument that, given the criminal conviction of Mr Shaik, it must be accepted for the purpose of these proceedings that Mr Shaik did pay bribes to Mr Zuma. The payments were made by Mr Shaik in order to influence Mr Zuma to promote Mr Shaik’s business interests and, in attending the meeting (with Thomson-CSF) in London in July 1998, Mr Zuma did, as a matter of fact, promote Mr Shaik’s interests.”


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    March 20th, 2009 @12:42 #

    It is good to read this here by someone who understands more clearly and intimately what is going on. I am so bewildered by all this, I feel like we're being duped in little ways (and large, elephantine even) on all sides, but one thing I know clearly is that General Petraeus (and I'm not very inclined to be quoting generals)had a good point about the fact that 'some of the best weapons don't shoot' -- he has his own plot going on with that, but to me it means never stop speaking out, more books, and more posts like this one.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    March 20th, 2009 @12:52 #

    Yes, agreed, it's a superb article that makes the dangers of a reprieve from the NPA very clear. Well put, Alex: we are being duped incrementally, and it's starting to add up.


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