Tuesday, April 07, 2009

ANC Welcomes NPA Decision to Drop Charges Against Jacob Zuma

ANC welcomes NPA decision to drop charges against ANC

President Jacob Zuma
6 April 2009

The ANC welcomes the decision of the NPA to discontinue the criminal prosecution against Comrade President Jacob Zuma. This decision is a victory for the rule of law, decency and common sense - it is good for our nation, the ANC, and Comrade President Zuma's family. Comrade President has endured many years of relentless persecution from individuals with ulterior political motives. It is a matter of record that the NPA's failure to give Comrade Zuma his day in court was, a calculated strategy designed to frustrate the democratic will of the people who had voted for him. This was aimed at frustrating Comrade Zuma from becoming a President of the ANC and the country.

Comrade Zuma endured an ordeal that has never been experienced by any other citizen. For 8 long years he was subjected to trial by the media and in the court of public opinion, he was denied his constitutional right to equality, dignity, privacy, right of access to court and his right to an expeditious, fair and impartial trial in the court of law. The inhumane and undignified treatment that Comrade Zuma suffered at the hands of our state prosecutors was not only disgraceful it also brought our criminal justice into disrepute. Never again should we allow institutions of government to surrender their professional independence by engaging in parties and political battles. Never again should we allow persecution for one individual for such a long period of time.

The ANC has long cautioned our people that there was no case against Comrade Zuma; it correctly argued that he was also entitled to a presumption of innocent. We applaud the courageous decision of the NPA which is based on its exercise of professional judgement, the rule of law and prosecutorial independence. We urge all our people and the NPA to reject the naysayer and all who would unleash a vilification campaign against the NPA for narrow and shortsighted political gains.

The case was tainted from the start when the public prosecutor announced that there was a "prima facie case of corruption" against Zuma but that he would not prosecute because the case was "unwinnable". Judge Nicholson described this conduct as having brought our judicial system into disrepute. The NPA strategy was to use the case against Shaik as a trial by proxy against Comrade Zuma. In doing so, it denied Comrade Zuma his right to equality, dignity, privacy, presumption of innocence, fair trial and his right to access to a court to vindicate his rights.

Comrade Zuma was not the only casualty of this abuse of power. Our public institution, meant to protect citizens were deliberately rendered toothless and were too paralyzed to offer any assistance to Zuma. The public protector ruled that comrade Zuma was subjected to a selective prosecution in violation of his rights under Section 9 of the constitution and that his right to dignity and privacy were also violated. Sadly, the Public Protector's findings were ridicule and his recommendations as they relate to remedies for Comrade Zuma were ignored by both parliament and the executive.

The constitutional violations continued unabated. The judiciary failed to protect Comrade Zuma' rights by allowing a trial by proxy and directly violated his constitutional rights by falsely attributing statements such as "generally corrupt relationship" to Squires. The Shaik trial concluded with a guilty verdict for Shaik. Interestingly Mbeki selectively relied on the on the "judgement" of the Squires court but ignored the Public Protectors findings that the NPA conduct of the prosecution was in violation of Comrade Zuma's constitutional right.

The Khampepe Commission of Inquiry also found that this reflected a culture of impunity within the NPA. The honorable Judge (Khampepe) condemned the manner in which the DSO publicized its work to the media "FBI style" and concluded that "the DSO conducts its operations as though it were a law unto itself". It found such "conduct to be out of kilter with our constitution, reprehensible, unprofessional and corroding the public's confidence in the law enforcement agencies".

Convinced that its strategy has worked, the NPA filed criminal charges against Zuma within days of the Shaik verdict around June 2005. Everything was downhill from that point. The NPA's handling of the zuma prosecution has been the polar opposite of due diligence and constitutes gross abuse of our judicial system. After many delays, and almost fifteen months after preferring charges against comrade Zuma, the NPA told the trial Judge Msimang that it was not ready to proceed with its case. Exasperated with this lackadaisical attitude and the gross violations of Zuma's rights, Justice Msimang threw the case out of court. Justice Msimang indicated that the conduct of the NPA had serious implications for Zuma's fair trial rights and concluded that the prosecution's case had limped from one disaster to another.

Even after this severe admonition, the NPA took another fifteen months to complete a "draft indictment" and proceeded to institute yet another ill-fated prosecution against Zuma. Just before the pivotal ANC Polokwane conference, the NPA leaked its "draft indictment" to the media in an obvious attempt to influence the outcome of the ANC leadership contest. Judge Nicholson later found this conduct as another instance of political interference in the Zuma prosecution. After a detour at the Supreme Court of Appeals, the NPA would like everyone to believe that it was now ready to prosecute the matter diligently.

There are many good reasons why Zuma prosecution must be ended once and for all. Comrade Zuma has suffered undue prejudicial delay which renders a fair trial impossible. Judicial findings and the Public Protector reports show that the NPA was squarely to blame. The principle of justice delayed is justice denied has been violated. Zuma was subjected to the torture of public condemnation and has already suffered irreparable harm in that right under section 35 (3)(d) of the Constitution to have his "trial begin and conclude without unreasonable delay" has been violated.

The NPA abused its discretion and misused the court's process improperly for an official public smear of an individual. A trial that comes after such torture is unlawful and can never be deemed fair by any standards. The nature or ordinary remedy for a breach of the reasonable time or access to court provision is a permanent stay. If the court were to direct that Zuma's trial proceed forthwith (notwithstanding the constitutional violations), it would be contradicting the accepted rule of natural justice and the inordinate delay had denied Zuma a fair trial: it would amount to the Court's participation in a further violation of Zuma's rights.

Indeed, the Zuma case has all the hallmarks of a vindictive politically motivated prosecution. In resurrecting the case, the NPA has added thirteen additional charges. A prosecutor violates due process when he brings additional or more severe charges under circumstances where he appears to punish the defendant for exercising a constitutional or statutory right. This form of retaliatory or vindictive prosecution is a violation of a constitution and must be stopped.

The NPA pursued a cloak and dagger strategy - despite its sworn promise to the court that it would be ready to put Zuma on a trial by the end of 2006, the NPA assiduously avoided an indictment of Zuma. The NPA issued press releases, and well-calculated leaks generated rumours about Zuma's political future and milked the subsequent adverse publicity against Zuma for what it was worth. It concentrated on a media campaign until the ANC Polokwane conference was over.

A combination of all the above indicate clearly that what we have is a political trial aimed at frustrating Jacob Zuma and the express will of the members of the ANC. It is evident that the NPA, the executive branch of our government and the judiciary have all sanctioned a judicial lynching process all in violation of Comrade Jacob Zuma's rights

The Zuma prosecution has now become so unwieldy and prohibitively expensive. The price tag for comrade Zuma's defence is an estimated R10.7 million cost to the South African taxpayers. The prosecution is estimated to have cost 100 million rands. Private advocates charging exorbitant fees were brought under the pretext of prosecutions of select high profile cases. The neutrality that is essential to a fair outcome for the litigants in the case is expediently dispensed with. The main beneficiary is attorneys that stand to make tons of money the longer the prosecution drags on.

Having listened to the NPA, it will be logical to appear in court urgently and formally withdraw the charges.

We supported the Judiciary Commission of enquiry into the cases of omissions that tainted the process.

They must close this chapter and move on.

We thank our people for the support throughout the trying times.

Issued by:
Gwede Mantashe
Secretary General
African National Congress

More information:
Brian Sokutu 071 671 6919
Ishmael Mnisi 082 333 5550

Zuma: Payments from Shaik were loans


African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma on Tuesday alleged that the more than R4-million payments he received from fraudster Schabir Shaik since the late 1990s were loans.

It was the first time Zuma spoke out on the criminal charges against him that were withdrawn by the Durban High Court on Tuesday morning. This comes after the acting National Director of Public Prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe, announced on Monday that the charges against Zuma would be dropped because of undue interference in the prosecuting process.

Zuma has in the past steadfastly refused to make public his possible defence against the state's charges of corruption and fraud. He recently provided the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) with representations on the charges against him, including the secret recordings that have led to the dropping of charges.

On Tuesday he told a packed press conference in Durban that the monies he received from Shaik were loans.

"I paid back some of the money. When I got my pension, I paid Schabir Shaik, which was from the MK Pensions Fund. It is on the record in court documents that there were loans. I paid it a long time ago; when I was still in KwaZulu-Natal [Zuma was provincial minister for finances] I repaid part of the loan. I have no hidden agenda on that," Zuma said.

Shaik, Zuma's former financial adviser, was convicted of corruption and fraud in 2005 by the Durban High Court and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. He was released on medical parole a month ago.

In his case Shaik's defence was also that he had a loan agreement with Zuma and that acknowledgements of debt for R340 000 were signed by the former deputy president. He could, however, not produce the original loan agreement between him and Zuma and Judge Hilary Squires rejected Shaik's defence on numerous grounds.

Squires found that Shaik had no idea about how much his Nkobi companies were paying Zuma and that a limit of R2-million, that was alleged the limit set by Shaik to Zuma, was long exceeded.

"When one compares that difference in the answer in cross-examination to his original statement that he lent these sums out of friendship and did not mind if they were never repaid, it becomes difficult to know just where the truth of the matter lies," Squires said.

He further found that the Nkobi Group was in no position to keep on paying Zuma's expenses and that the group's dire financial position was further proof that the payments to Zuma weren't loans.

"Throughout 1998 the group had largely been kept going by bank overdrafts, first from Standard Bank until the middle of that year and thereafter from Absa. By 16 May 1999, when the overdraft limit was R450 000, R384 902 of this had been used, yet the payments to Zuma by then amounted to R528 080. The group was, in effect, borrowing money to keep up its payments to Zuma," Squires found.

The company was in no position to pay Zuma and the fact that a loan agreement was allegedly signed at that stage is further proof that the payments weren't loans.

"Besides these there are these other features of the evidence that indicate these payments were not really loans," Squires said in his judgement. "One is the fact as mentioned before, that even after Zuma became executive deputy president and leader of government business in Parliament, with an annual remuneration … of some R850 000 from his two offices, Shaik still continued to make these payments, when there can have been no possible reason to do so, whether they were regarded as loans or friendly payments to help a deserving comrade whose work was inadequately rewarded."

The continuation of such payments after this, Squires found, could only have been to allow Zuma to live at an "even higher standard of material comfort than his official remuneration provided" and can only have been to "continue the existence of a sense of obligation towards Shaik in return".

Zuma vows to focus on elections

Zuma said on Tuesday he had been "vindicated" after the charges were dropped and vowed to focus on leading the country after the April 22 election.

Zuma said the eight-year battle by prosecutors to convict him was "political and manipulative" and any suggestion that a "cloud" would hang over him because the case was dismissed on a technicality was a media fiction.

"There never was a case against me ... I have been vindicated," Zuma said.

"There is no cloud. There has never been a cloud ... At the moment we have a country to run."

Zuma's ANC party is widely expected to win the April 22 election and choose him as president of Africa's biggest economic power, although it faces an unprecedented challenge from the new Congress of the People (Cope), which hopes to attract voters uneasy with the ANC's record on corruption.

Election boost

The move gives Zuma a big boost ahead of the election, but analysts and the opposition say suspicion will continue to dog him because the case was never settled in court.

Zuma, whose ANC party ousted Mbeki as president last year, said he would not seek revenge against his political enemies but would concentrate on tackling issues such as poverty, crime and HIV/Aids.

"Retribution will not take us anywhere," he said. "Now is the time for us to focus on improving people's lives."

The opposition Democratic Alliance said prosecutors had been "hopelessly compromised" and filed an application with a high court for a judicial review into the decision.

Zuma had faced charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering in relation to the largest government arms deal in post-apartheid South Africa.

The case has been closely followed by investors looking for political stability and has raised concerns about the independence of South Africa's judiciary.

Zuma said the case showed state institutions such as parliament needed to be strengthened to avoid abuse of power.

"Something clearly needs to be done to make them more effective in their oversight roles," he said.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-04-07-zuma-payments-from-shaik-were-loans

Zuma: I was a victim of abuse

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA Apr 07 2009 11:37

African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma on Tuesday said he was a victim of a "systematic abuse of power" and that there was no cloud of corruption hanging over him.

"There is no cloud. There has been allegations against me and the State has not been able to put up the case. I have not been found guilty in a court of law," he said.

Zuma was responding to questions from the media at the Hilton Hotel in Durban on why he did not go to court to have his name cleared.

Zuma also stressed that he was not above the law.

"I do not regard myself as being above the law and no public person should be above scrutiny," he said.

"In the last eight years, I did not use my position to interfere with the due course of the law ... and I always presented myself in court whenever needed.

The ruling party president conceded he had received a loan from convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik but declined to elaborate, saying it was contained in his representation to the NPA.

He did, however, say that he had re-paid part of the loan.

Zuma began the briefing on a light-hearted note, joking with journalists about "converting" them to vote for the ANC.

The jovial mood quickly dissipated as Zuma got down to business, highlighting the ordeal he and his family had been subjected to during the time the charges hung over him.

But the party president said he did not hold any grudges.

"I have come across such things in the past, I believe that if people know that what they have done has become known they will desist from doing so in the future."

He thanked those who supported and believed in his innocence.

Charges dropped

Earlier the High Court in Durban endorsed a decision taken by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to drop the 16 charges against the presidential frontrunner, who was seen smiling as the decision was confirmed.

Zuma's daughter Duduzile, wearing a bright yellow jacket, was inside court videotaping her father's big moment.

Judge president Vuka Tshabalala said all charges against the three accused were withdrawn.

This included charges against two Thint companies, who were the co-accused.

The charges had related to allegations of bribery between the arms company and Zuma.

Tshabalala said when charges are withdrawn they could be reinstated again, however, he stressed that it was unlikely.

He spoke briefly on the publicity surrounding the case and stressed that all proper procedure had been followed.

After the judge's pronouncement that Zuma was officially free from the eight-year legal burden, his supporters in court burst into applause.

The formality followed the announcement by the NPA's acting head, Mokotedi Mpshe on Monday that the 16 charges would be dropped due to the alleged abuse of process by the former head of the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), Leonard McCarthy.

Mpshe was quick to point out that dropping the corruption charges did not amount to Zuma's acquittal.

His decision was not based on the actual merits of the case.

"It does not amount to an acquittal ... Mr McCarthy's conduct offends one's sense of justice. It would be unfair as well as unjust to continue with the prosecution," Mpshe said at a press briefing.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Monday said there were "good reasons" why the Zuma prosecution had to end: "Comrade Zuma has suffered undue prejudicial delay which renders a fair trial impossible."

Election boost

The move to drop the charges gives Zuma a big boost ahead of the election and ends a legal battle that raised doubts over his ability to govern, but analysts and the opposition say suspicion will continue to dog him because the case was never settled in court.

Zuma, whose ANC party ousted Mbeki as president last year, said he would not seek revenge against his political enemies but would concentrate on tackling issues such as poverty, crime and HIV/Aids.

"Retribution will not take us anywhere," he said. "Now is the time for us to focus on improving people's lives."

Zuma said the case showed state institutions such as Parliament needed to be strengthened to avoid abuse of power.

"Something clearly needs to be done to make them more effective in their oversight roles," he said.

Zille files application for review

Meanwhile, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille filed an urgent application to the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday requesting a review of the NPA's decision to drop charges against Zuma.

After spending about 40 minutes inside the court, Zille, dressed all in black, spoke to the media at 10am.

She said the decision announced by Mpshe was unlawful and irrational.

"It violated the Constitution, it violated the law and it violated the [National Directorate of Public Prosecution's] own policy.

"It is an irrational decision, it is an unlawful decision and the reasons given do not hold water because they do not address the question of the merits of the case against Jacob Zuma." -- Sapa, Reuters

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-04-07-zuma-i-was-a-victim-of-abuse

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