Jacob Zuma leads the ANC into elections free from the threat of going to jail for corruption, but the National Prosecuting Authority's decision to drop charges has cast the the body politic into turmoil.
First and foremost, the NPA's handling of the matter and its decision on contested technical grounds tarnishes our judicial system, especially because acting NPA head Mokotedi Mpshe stressed yesterday that the "substantive merits" of the case against Zuma still hold.
We should never forget that the high court and the appeals court have already ruled in Schabir Shaik's case that a R500000-a-year bribe was solicited from the French arms manufacturer Thint for Zuma to protect it from investigations in the arms deal.
Now the NPA wants us to believe that justice is best served by dropping charges against the country's future president because there was an alleged abuse of the prosecutorial process.
Surely claims of prosecutorial misconduct should have been investigated separately. But let Zuma prove his innocence in court and let a judge decide if prosecutorial shenanigans so tainted the case that it cannot continue.
The NPA and the ANC are hoping to persuade us we don't have a two-tier system of justice, one for Joe Public and the powerful elite. That's a tough task.
Doubt about Zuma's moral probity will inevitably swirl above his head. Consequently this once-proud nation committed to human rights and justice for all will also be tarred with opprobrium.
If Zuma can escape his day in court, what about others such as our police commissioner who stands accused of consorting with gangsters and drug smugglers?
Again, what action will be taken against those found to have abused the NPA prosecutorial process apparently influenced by outside interference?
The affable peace-making Jacob Zuma might well be the one politician who can lead us out of the gloomy Mbeki years, but we have paid a terrible price in idealism and principle for his ascension.