Friday, September 12, 2008

South Africa's High Court Rules in Favour of ANC President Jacob Zuma; Thousands of ANC Supporters Celebrate Throughout the Country

Zuma: I am a wounded warrior

Sep 12 2008 15:26

African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma said on Friday that the court ruling in his favour was a victory for the justice system but had left him a "wounded warrior".

He broke into an isiZulu war song after speaking to thousands of supporters gathered outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court, where Judge Chris Nicholson had earlier found that the Scorpions' decision to prosecute Zuma on fraud and corruption charges was not legal.

"I have wounds all over my body because of the warriors from my neighbourhood, they are all stamping, all over me," Zuma sang.

Addressing the crowd, Zuma said: "It is a victory for the judiciary, it is a victory for our democracy, it is a victory for our justice system."

He also sang his trademark song, Umshini Wami, with supporters and fellow politicians alike joining in and dancing along.

"When I sat in court, I remembered one of my learned friends saying he was [as] sober as a judge. Indeed, this judge was sober," Zuma told his supporters, to laughter. "My view is, today's judgement will help South Africa."

Zuma, dressed in a dark pinstripe suit, white shirt and red tie, and surrounded by dozens of bodyguards, thanked his supporters, saying the ruling should serve as a lesson to politicians.

"The decision was a lesson for all of us, all the people of South Africa, that we should not be quiet when the people in power break the law. Your support made me realise that there were people in this country who uphold the law. It was difficult. Not that I'm saying it's all over now," he said.

The NPA has yet to announce whether it will appeal against Friday's ruling.

Zuma said Nicholson confirmed his belief that there was a political conspiracy against him.

The judge earlier had strong words for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), saying it would have been wise for the NPA to allow Zuma to make representation at the time of him being recharged.

"I believe the NDPP [National Directorate of Public Prosecutions] ought to have heard the applicant's representation," Nicholson said, adding that Zuma's claims that there were political undercurrents in his prosecution were not completely unbelievable.

"The judge said this is a political wrangle," Zuma said to loud cheers. "[The judge said] the manner in which they charged me, is so unconstitutional ... and said it was all unfair."

He added: "He [Nicholson] said the NPA did not have a valid case. He was going to take it off the roll." The prosecution was "undemocratic, unconstitutional", the ANC leader said.

Big blow for Mbeki

Pierre de Vos, professor of law at the University of Western Cape, told the Mail & Guardian Online on Friday that the judgement was a "big blow" for Mbeki.

According to De Vos, the judge made it quite clear that there had been political interference by Mbeki in charging Zuma, and that this would surely affect the former's standing in the ANC.

"It's quite difficult to be a president of a country that used constitutional institutions to try and fight a political battle. The president abused his power to undermine the institutions of the Constitution," he said.

"Nicholson said the president and the minister[s] of justice didn't respect the independence of the NPA. He [Nicholson] also indicated that the initial decision not the charge Zuma together with Shaik was politically motivated."

De Vos wondered what the ANC would do on a political level and whether it would address the Mbeki issue -- and, of course, whether the NPA would recharge Zuma. "I hope the NPA would now come to a decision without political interference, on the grounds of prosecution policies," he said.

But, he added, "the NPA is finding itself in a very difficult position now. The ball is now in the NPA court. We must see how strong and brave it is."

According to De Vos, the judgement created a much stronger political and legal position for Zuma. "With this ruling [with the implications that there was political interference] it is much easier for Zuma to argue later in court that it's impossible for him to get a fair trial."


Outside court, Zuma noted that only a few alliance leaders, such as South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande and ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, had supported him at his previous court appearances in Pietermaritzburg.

But on Friday, many high-profile people were present at the Pietermaritzburg High Court, including businessman Tokyo Sexwale and suspended Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride.

"Before Polokwane, all the leaders were hardly seen around here because of fear of intimidation. You knew if you appeared where Zuma was, you were in trouble. But today, they are all here," Zuma said.

Then he added: "Let me correct this: there were leaders who were used to come here, your Nzimandes, your Motlanthes."

Earlier, cheers of joy had erupted outside the court when the verdict was broadcast to Zuma's supporters camped out in Freedom Square, opposite the court.

"Chris Nicholson is not a counter-revolutionary judge," ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told supporters after the ruling.

'The problem is Mbeki'

ANC Youth League president Julius Malema said he always knew Zuma would win his court bid to have the prosecution declared invalid.

"The problem in this country is [President] Thabo Mbeki and his people ... We don't want him," Malema said. "The NEC [national executive committee of the ANC] has got a responsibility to recall Mbeki or else we will recall them."

To loud cheers, Malema added: "To the racist media ... we defeated you again."

Behind him was a huge banner with a picture of Zuma and the words "Hands off our president".

"Today we feel absolutely vindicated. We want to see who are the rapists of the judicial system," said Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi. "There is a political conspiracy, that's what we have been saying. That's what we have been ridiculed for."

The SACP's Nzimande said Zuma's rights had been raped -- a reference to a recent Zapiro cartoon that showed Zuma about to rape justice, represented by a woman held down by alliance leaders.

"Zapiro, don't try and make fun of rape. Our sisters, our mothers are victims of rape on a daily basis. Don't play with rape. It's you, along with the other media people who are rapists," said Nzimande. "We are happy for Msholozi [Zuma's clan name] and we did say we would support him until the end."


The verdict must be respected, political parties said on Friday.

ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte said it was a victory for justice and the Constitution.

"The ANC calls on all South Africans and state institutions to respect the judgement handed down by Judge Chris Nicholson. It vindicates our view and further confirms the established position that the National Prosecuting Authority acted as though it was a law unto itself with undue political interference, and that Jacob Zuma was not responsible for the delays in prosecution," she said.

The ANC had always maintained that throughout the investigation and prosecution of this case, Zuma's rights had been repeatedly violated by the NPA.

"This case has been commented upon extensively, wrongly and in a skewed fashion, unfairly subjecting our president to the torture of public condemnation, undue prejudicial delay and violating his right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

"We believe that our president has been a subject of a vindictive prosecution," Duarte said.

Innocent or guilty?

However, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille said Zuma's supporters who "resorted to intimidatory and violent action" should understand their behaviour had no influence on the judgement. "They must also understand that their behaviour has no place in a constitutional democracy."

She said it was significant that Nicholson stressed that his ruling on Friday was not a judgement on Zuma's guilt or innocence.

"We are still no closer to knowing whether Zuma is innocent or guilty of the corruption charges brought against him," she said.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said it should be remembered that no substantive arguments had been heard about the merits and demerits of the charges Zuma faced.

"In other words, Mr Zuma remains a suspect with a cloud hanging over his head, and a former financial adviser in prison for committing fraud and corruption.

"It is not the first time that the courts have ruled in his favour, so hopefully Mr Zuma and his supporters will stop questioning the impartiality of the judiciary. It is also pivotal that the question of whether there are undue political motives behind the prosecution of Mr Zuma be resolved; that too, can best be achieved in an open court," Holomisa said.

The Inkatha Freedom Party's (IFP) Musa Zondi said his party has always supported the legal route as opposed to a political quick fix to Zuma's charges, as demanded persistently by the ANC's alliance partners.

The IFP said it continues to support the legal course of Zuma's battle as long as it remains within the competencies of South Africa's judiciary.

"We continue to have full confidence in South Africa's judicial system. The IFP stands for the rule of law where the Constitution reigns supreme," Zondi said.

Independent Democrats (ID) leader Patricia de Lille said Zuma should still "face the music and clear his name".

The judgement also "clearly indicates blatant political interference by President [Thabo] Mbeki and Cabinet members in the NPA process and the timing of charging Zuma", she said.

"The ID views this as a shocking indictment on Mbeki and his Cabinet and lends further weight to the ID's call for a vote of no confidence in the president and the Cabinet, who must take collective responsibility for this entire debacle," De Lille said.

Cosatu 'vindicated'

In a separate statement, Cosatu welcomed the judgement and said the ruling completely vindicated its stance that the prosecution had been politically motivated.

"We agree in particular with Judge Nicholson's description of the decision in 2003 by the then national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka not to prosecute Zuma despite the presence of a prima facie case against him as 'bizarre', given that a decision had been made to prosecute Schabir Shaik and his corporate entities."

The trade-union federation said its historic position has been that justice will not be served by pursuing Zuma in court, and that it is not in the interests of the country.

"Contrary to media reports, the federation has never sought to undermine the independence of the judiciary or believe the ANC president is above the law. Judge Nicholson's judgement clearly supports the view that if there has been any attack on the independence of the judiciary, it has not come from the supporters of Jacob Zuma but from those he accuses of manipulating judicial structures for political ends."

It said it was expressing the strong views of its members -- and what it believed to be the majority of South African society -- that Zuma had been treated unfairly and was the victim of machinations to stop him from being president of the ANC and, now, president of the country.

It said while Nicholson did not rule on Zuma's guilt or innocence, his judgement undermined the whole basis of the NPA's case, and had gone a long way in vindicating Cosatu's demand for the permanent scrapping of all charges against Zuma.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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