Monday, August 04, 2008

ANC Allies to Come Out for Zuma

ANC allies to come out for Zuma

By Peter Biles
Southern Africa correspondent, BBC News

Kwazulu-Natal's provincial capital, Pietermaritzburg, could be brought to a standstill on Monday when Jacob Zuma, South Africa's presidential hopeful, appears in court.

With its colonial architecture and its prominent statue of Queen Victoria in front of the city's legislature, Pietermaritzburg is normally a sleepy place.

But Mr Zuma's supporters are expected to turn out in huge
numbers to support him.

The president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is facing charges of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering, relating to a controversial arms deal in 1999.

Mr Zuma denies the charges and is attempting to have the case dismissed. He is planning to file an application in the High Court challenging the state's decision to prosecute him.

"We are bussing in people to Pietermaritzburg because this is a national issue", said Julius Malema, president of the ANC Youth League, whose members are among Mr Zuma's most vocal supporters.

"We demand the case be dropped. We're collecting one million signatures from former soldiers of Umkhonto We Sizwe [the ANC's armed wing during the apartheid era], and we'll petition the court.

"This is a political case in which efforts are being made to stop the old man becoming the president of the country," he added.

Vicious, unrelenting media

Other supporters of Mr Zuma expected in Pietermaritzburg include the Young Communist League, the ANC Women's League, the Congress of South African Students, the Umkhonto We Sizwe Veterans' Association and the South African Communist Party.

Significantly, the leadership of the ANC, which was elected at the party's national conference in Polokwane last December, is also solidly behind Mr Zuma.

Writing in The Star newspaper in Johannesburg on Friday, the ANC's deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe said Mr Zuma had not "enjoyed the right of fair and equal treatment".

"Throughout the investigation and prosecution of this case, the ANC president has had his rights repeatedly violated by institutions of state, specifically the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)," he said.

"He has been subjected to a vicious and unrelenting trial by media, having been found guilty long before his case has even come to court."

Mr Motlanthe was recently sworn in as a new member of the South African cabinet.

It was widely seen as a move that could lead to him becoming the ANC's preferred candidate for president in next year's elections, should Mr Zuma be sidelined because of his court case.

However, in his newspaper article, Mr Motlanthe reaffirmed the party's backing for Mr Zuma.

"Until such time as a court tells us otherwise, Jacob Zuma is an innocent person," he said.

"That is why the ANC has supported him until now and will continue to support him."

Conspiracy claims

Mr Zuma suffered a considerable blow last Thursday when South Africa's highest court, the Constitutional Court, rejected his application to have search and seizure operations by the NPA declared invalid.

It means the state will now be allowed to use tens of thousands of documents, taken from Mr Zuma's home and office and his attorney's premises, as evidence in the forthcoming corruption trial.

Political commentator Adam Habib, from the University of Johannesburg, says many urban and upper-middle-class South Africans are embarrassed that Mr Zuma, a presidential candidate, being charged with corruption.

Nonetheless, Mr Habib believes that Mr Zuma is still on course for the presidency.

"There is a wider layer of poor and marginalised people who believe Zuma has been the victim of conspiracy and of a political elite which has not taken care of their interests," he said.

"For them, this is a witch-hunt, designed to undermine their man going for the top job.

"So the charge of political conspiracy will continue to be the argument of the Zuma camp and its benefactors."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/08/03 23:23:40 GMT

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