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If Zuma's case is week let him go

By unknown | Apr 03, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Makhosini Nkosi

Makhosini Nkosi

As we wait with bated breath for the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority on whether or not to drop criminal charges against ANC president Jacob Zuma, its acting head Mokotedi Mpshe has had to choose between two evils.

Zuma does have a case to answer, whether he does so in court through a trial or to the NPA through his representations.

His erstwhile financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was found guilty of corruption involving him. However, Shaik's conviction is not automatic guilt on the part of Zuma.

It could very well be that Shaik sought to corrupt Zuma while the latter had no criminal intent in receiving Shaik's largesse.

Mpshe has had to consider Zuma's representations, the evidence against him, the zeal of the investigators and prosecutors, and the interests of justice, the accused and the community.

No doubt the NPA team on Zuma's case would feel let down if the hard work put into the case were cast aside at this late hour.

However, the interest of justice would dictate that Mpshe takes to court a case with reasonable prospects of success. If on the basis of all factors considered Mpshe believes his case is weak or seriously compromised, he has to set Zuma free and deal with the fallout that will ensue.

Opinion polls tell us that Zuma will be president of the republic in several weeks' time. The majority of eligible voters will elect him because they either believe that he is a victim of a political conspiracy, he is innocent or they don't care if he's guilty.

If Mpshe presses ahead with the prosecution, Zuma will spend a lot of time in courts at a time when he should be leading a country with a multiplicity of problems requiring its president's undivided attention.

If he drops the charges, the loud minority will criticise the decision and accuse the NPA of pandering to the whims of the new ruling elite. An impression may also be created that the powerful can evade justice. This would undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system.

If I were Mpshe, and I'm glad I'm not, I would drop the charges and let the country move on. Mpshe would remember that the NPA has compromised its own case.

Had Zuma been charged in 2003 with Shaik, by now he would have been cleared or in orange overalls. It's not his fault that he wasn't charged in 2003 together with Shaik, or that the state was not ready for trial in 2006 when the Pietermaritzburg High Court struck the matter from the roll.

The possibility of evidence of collusion between the NPA and Zuma's political foes is just too ghastly to contemplate.

What the NPA needs is a good stakeholder engagement strategy. It can explain its decision to free Zuma and still remain standing. South Africans are a forgive-and-forget people.

We have forgotten about the acquittal of one Wouter Basson and the impunity of others who violated human rights in the past.

South Africa just cannot afford to have a President Accused.

l Nkosi is a former journalist and spokesperson for the NPA. He writes in his personal capacity.


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