South African High Court Dismisses Charges Against Former Deputy President Jacob Zuma
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Euphoria set in as news filtered through to the thousands of delegates at the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Midrand on Wednesday of Jacob Zuma's court victory.
Triggering the celebration was a two-word cellphone SMS from Pietermaritzburg to Cosatu: "Struck Off!!!!"
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi interrupted delegates singing to welcome Winnie Madikizela-Mandela with the news that ANC deputy president Zuma's corruption case had been struck off the roll in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
"Hold on, hold on, we are going to celebrate now until right into the evening," said Vavi.
'This second round we've won'. "When we opened the congress we said we were smelling a victory.
"The judge in Pietermaritzburg has struck off that case against Jacob Zuma."
Delegates leapt onto chairs, screaming and shouting with joy. Others hugged each other and danced around.
"This second round we've won. The third round - we'll get," said one jubilant delegate.
'God seems to hear our prayer'
When the crowd had calmed down Madikizela-Mandela, still on the podium, announced: "God seems to hear our prayer."
Madikizela-Mandela, who turns 70 next Tuesday, was at the congress to receive an award honouring her lifelong commitment to workers.
The hall burst into Zuma's trademark song, "Awuleth'umshini wami" (Bring me my machine gun).
The news followed a militant and well-received speech by SA Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande, who had strongly supported Zuma and Vavi.
Nzimande got such a rousing send-off by delegates that Vavi then banned the purple vuvuzelas from the rest of the conference.
"Comrades, this is not FNB stadium, this is a congress," Vavi told delegates.
"Our tradition is to sing in our congress."
Delegates have sung repeatedly to campaign for their favourites in the Cosatu leadership tussle, with groups moving in and out of the hall chanting for different leaders.
The congress heard from the Electoral Institute of SA that Vavi had been nominated unopposed for his post of general secretary, while Cosatu president Willie Madisha would have to fight an election against National Union of Mineworkers of SA (Numsa) delegate Zanoxolo Wayile.
Cosatu KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Sdumo Dlamini was the sole nominee or the vacant position of first deputy president. The rest of the incumbent Cosatu leadership was nominated unopposed for their existing positions: Violet Seboni as second deputy president, Alinah Rantsolase as treasurer, and Bheki Ntshalintshali as deputy general secretary.
No sooner than the nominations had been announced, than Numsa dissociated itself from Wayile's presidential bid.
Wayile was apparently nominated by the National Union of Mineworkers, the biggest in the federation. But Numsa said he had gone against a Numsa decision that he should only contest the vacant deputy president position.
The election is on Thursday.
At lunch time, Zimbabwean Council of Trade Unions president Lucia Matibenga showed a press conference attended by overseas union delegations her bruised body. She had been beaten up by police in Harare last week.
International unionists are organising a day of solidarity with Zimbabwean unionists on Friday.
After the excitement of the morning, delegates settled down to the hard work of discussing reports and debating resolutions on policy.
Many drifted outside, some signing a petition calling for the release of the Cuban Five, imprisoned in the US for infiltrating Miami-based groups opposing Cuba's President Fidel Castro. Others joined a long queue to sign a petition in support of Palestine, getting a free Boycott Israel T-shirt.
The congress ends on Thursday. - Sapa
Cabinet accepts ruling on Zuma case
September 20 2006 at 06:12PM
Cabinet has noted and accepted High Court Judge Herbert Msimang's decision to strike former deputy president Jacob Zuma's corruption case off the roll, government communications head Themba Maseko said on Wednesday.
Briefing the media after Cabinet's fortnightly meeting at Tuynhuys, he said the matter was not on the agenda, but the meeting was informed of the Pietermaritzburg court's decision.
"And government's view is that all decisions of the courts are accepted; but no further discussion took place in the meeting."
"It (the news) just came as one of the announcements towards the end of the meeting, so there was no discussion on this; it was just noted as a decision of the courts," Maseko said. -
Zuma off the hook
September 20 2006 at 11:09AM
Former deputy president Jacob Zuma's corruption case was struck off the roll by the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Wednesday.
Delivering judgment, Judge Herbert Msimang said Zuma had to be treated the same as any other person, irrespective of his position in the country.
"His standing in the community will not alter his position in the eyes of the law."
The thousands of people gathered outside the court in support of the ANC deputy president erupted into cheering and shouting when a large group of chiefs wearing traditional clothing ran outside waving their sticks in the air to break the news.
Msimang said he needed to take the "spirit of the Constitution" into account when making a judgment.
He pointed out that the prosecution's case depended on the outcome of appeals against controversial search and seizure raids, when documents were seized from Zuma's lawyers and from Zuma.
Msimang said Zuma had suffered social prejudice which "closely resembles punishment that should only be handed to a convicted person".
He said the state's decision to prosecute was "anchored" on unsound principles.
The State's case "limped from one disaster to another" and it should have investigated further before charging Zuma.
He accused the state of failing to take into account the legal challenges to the search and seizure raids.
The state was "taking chances that the trial court would come to their rescue to admit such evidence".
Msimang said the state did not "need to take chances".
Zuma was accused of accepting a R500 000 a year bribe from the two Thint companies - subsidiaries of the French arms manufacturer Thales International. The two Thint companies were co-accused in the case. - Sapa
Zuma's corruption trial collapses
Corruption charges against former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma have been dismissed - boosting his chances of running for president.
The judge threw out the case after the prosecution said it was not ready to proceed, setting off celebrations by Mr Zuma's supporters in the courtroom.
Mr Zuma was sacked last year in connection with a 1999 arms deal. He was cleared of rape earlier this year.
The state's case had "limped from one disaster to another", said the judge.
Judge Herbert Msimang said he could not allow the prosecution to delay the case as it had requested and threw it out.
The prosecution team blames the defence for delaying tactics and maintains it has a strong and winnable case and has not ruled out going back to court.
Mr Zuma was sacked from the government more than a year ago when his financial adviser Schabir Shaik was found guilty of corruption in a case that arose from a government arms procurement deal in the 1990s.
The judge said there had been a generally corrupt relationship between Mr Shaik and Mr Zuma, and evidence given in Mr Shaik's trial prompted the National Prosecuting Authority to start investigating charges against Mr Zuma.
Although the investigation prompted President Mbeki to relieve Mr Zuma of his duties as deputy president, he kept his position as deputy leader of the ANC.
He first appeared in connection with the corruption allegations in the Durban magistrate's court in October last year, and prosecutors spent the intervening period collecting and examining evidence.
Late last year, Mr Zuma was accused of rape by the daughter of a family friend, giving rise to a separate trial, in which he was acquitted.
Mr Zuma always maintained that the cases were aimed at sidelining him politically.
Unless another case is brought against him, Mr Zuma will be free to contest next year for the leadership of the governing African National Congress Party, ANC.
Should he take that position he would be a firm favourite to succeed Thabo Mbeki as the next South African president in 2009.
The former head of the African National Congress's military wing has considerable support from the influential trade unions and the Communist Party.
He is seen as less aloof than Mr Mbeki and likely to drop some of the ANC's more conservative economic policies.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/09/20 10:11:12 GMT
NPA 'must get their act together'
September 20 2006 at 03:25PM
The Pietermaritzburg High Court's decision to strike Jacob Zuma's corruption case from the roll has far-reaching political consequences for the African National Congress, and for South Africa, the Freedom Front Plus said on Wednesday.
"Technically Mr Zuma can be charged again. If it is done shortly before the ANC's Congress in 2007, it could knock him out of the leadership battle. It may be legally possible but it will have far-reaching consequences politically," said FF+ leader Pieter Mulder.
"Handled incorrectly politically, the whole Zuma case could now explode in the ANC's and especially in the face of Mbeki. We may end up with President Mbeki in office but not in power.
'The judge has not done Zuma any favours'
Mulder said that Judge Herbert Msimang's comments that the case against Zuma relied on the outcome of the National Prosecuting Authority's appeals, created the impression with ordinary ANC voters that the legal system was used to place Zuma under a cloud of suspicion.
"It will not be possible to argue that this case has nothing to do with the succession struggle within the ANC. It is therefore a pity that the NPA neglected to do thorough work before they charged Mr Zuma. Despite this case being struck from the roll, it is definitely not the end of this issue."
Msimang's decision to the matter from the roll was greeted with jubilation in some quarters and caution in others.
ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama said: "The ANC accepts this ruling. We believe that due process has taken its course and we therefore accept the ruling."
The ANC's alliance partners, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the SA Communist Party, were more exuberant.
"The courts in Pietermaritzburg have struck off the case of Jacob Zuma!" Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi announced to cheering delegates at the labour federation's congress in Midrand.
"There is a difference between rumour-mongering and actual justice in a court of law... For today justice prevails," Vavi told delegates who jumped on chairs and sang Zuma's trademark song "Awuleth'umshini wami" (Bring me my machine gun).
The SACP welcomed Msimang's decision, saying it had not been taken by surprise, as "we have always maintained that comrade Jacob Zuma has not been treated fairly by the National Prosecuting Authority.
"We equally feel vindicated on the stances we have taken on this matter. The judgment is also a serious indictment on the behaviour of the NPA," spokesperson Malesela Maleka said.
The Democratic Alliance however, cautioned against early triumphalism on the part of Zuma's supporters.
"Judge Herbert Msimang's decision today that the Jacob Zuma corruption case could be struck from the roll is not the end for the corruption case; it is a temporary reprieve rather than absolution," Sheila Camerer, the official opposition's justice spokesperson said.
Camerer said the prosecution team could bring the case back to court at a later stage, but needed to iron out some difficulties first.
"From a legal point of view, too much triumphalism on the part of Mr Zuma's supporters would be misplaced," Camerer said.
However the political implications of the ruling were enormous because in the "court of public opinion" Zuma's claims of victimisation had been given "judicial respectability".
This would make it difficult to re-open the case.
The Inkatha Freedom Party said it wondered why the State was seemingly not ready to conduct its case against Zuma three years after former Scorpions head Bulelani Ngcuka had said there was a prima facie case against the then deputy president.
"The question is why is the case not ready to proceed," said Koos van der Merwe, IFP justice spokesman.
"This is judicial nonsense. If they (the State) have a case against Zuma they should have prosecuted him and if they don't have a case they should let him go because he has suffered enough," said Van der Merwe.
Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille said it was unfortunate the case had been struck.
"Zuma has on numerous occasions said he wants his day in court, so he should also be disappointed.
"Now we have denied Zuma the opportunity to give his side of the story and a very dark cloud will hang over his reputation for life.
"I hope that the NPA will bring charges against him when they have got their act together and have built their case in a more professional manner than this time round," De Lille said.
African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe said he was not surprised that the case had been struck off the roll.
"For years we've been saying the government must improve the investigative capacity of the police.
"There are too many serious cases that have been thrown out of court for lack of sufficient evidence.
"So the fact that (this case) was thrown out of court today will be a wake-up call to government."
If there was a problem with capacity, the authorities should "humble themselves" and seek expertise from other countries.
Meshoe noted that Zuma himself had in the past said he wanted to be cleared by a court of law.
The Pietermaritzburg judge had however not examined the merits of the case, Meshoe said.
"So if Zuma truly wants to be cleared... I think it would be fair to say, let the case be properly heard.
"But before that happens government must pull up its socks and do proper investigations."
United Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa said the judge had not done Zuma any favours, and that the former deputy president still had a cloud hanging over his head.
He said Zuma's supporters - who cheered Wednesday's decision outside the High Court - seemed not to recognise his continuing run of misfortune.
Ngcuka's comments three years ago that there was a prima facie case against Zuma, but that he would not be prosecuted, had cast a cloud over him without giving him an opportunity to prove his innocence.
"And now that his day in court was about to dawn the case has been struck from the roll again.
"It looks like Zuma is back to square one, with the cloud still hanging over his head," Holomisa said.
"The judge has not done Zuma any favours. His political opponents will continue to say that he has many unanswered allegations against his name and that he continues to escape prosecution on technicalities." - Sapa
Leadership battle is 'more than Zuma faction'
By Louise Flanagan
The battle for positions in Cosatu is about more than the political alignment between supporters of ANC president Thabo Mbeki and his deputy Jacob Zuma, said Professor Devan Pillay on Wednesday.
"The key factor here is the question of the relationship between the president and the general secretary," said Pillay, associate professor of sociology at Witwatersrand University.
He was commenting on the wrangle over leadership positions in the Congress of SA Trade Unions, which is holding its 9th congress in Midrand.
There have been continuing reports of a split between Cosatu president Willie Madisha and general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
On Wednesday, congress heard that Vavi was elected unopposed for his position again while Madisha, recently re-elected president of the SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu), is contesting the presidency against National Union of Metalworkers' of SA (Numsa) member Zanoxolo Wayile. The election is on Thursday.
Neither candidate appears to have the backing of his own union.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is believed to have nominated Wayile, while Numsa told the congress that Wayile's acceptance of nomination for the presidency was against a union decision. The NUM, Sadtu and Numsa are the three biggest unions in the federation.
Other office bearers were elected unopposed.
Pillay said while the split between Zuma and Mbeki factions was a factor, there were other tensions too.
He said there was a long-standing principle in Cosatu that workers control the organisation and this issue was part of the tension between Madisha and Vavi.
Madisha, although senior to Vavi as the president, remains a worker and would be expected to turn to his pre-union official job with his employer if he is no longer president, while Vavi is a paid union employee.
"Once you become general secretary, you are no longer a worker," said Pillay.
At the same time, Vavi is based in the Cosatu offices, at the centre of the union's affairs, while Madisha is not.
"Life is difficult for Madisha because he doesn't have a full-time office at Cosatu, so it undermines his position," said Pillay.
"The general secretary runs the day to day affairs of the union so is intimately aware of all the issues, but has to consult with the president."
He said the conflict was resulting in spinoffs such as one of the resolutions being proposed at the congress, on constitutional amendments, which reflected attempts to clarify the secretary general's role.
Pillay said he thought that Madisha still had enough support to win the presidency again on Thursday. - Sapa
Published on the Web by IOL on 2006-09-20 14:53:06