NPA decision to recharge Zuma is the biggest challenge facing ruling party after the 52nd conference

Ido Lekota

Ido Lekota

The decision by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to recharge ANC president Jacob Zuma is the biggest political challenge that the ANC faces after the party's 52nd national conference in Polokwane.

"This is about Zuma, the ANC and the country. When the ANC leadership meets on January 7 it needs to collectively discuss this matter and come up with a political solution that will ensure that the party's image remains intact," constitutional law expert Professor Shadrack Gutto told Sowetan yesterday.

His view is shared by political analyst Steve Friedman who also believes Zuma's case needs a political solution.

"The political challenge about the case is the fact that Zuma's trial is supposed to start at a time when the ANC is to start the process of nominating the 2009 candidates for the various legislatures, including the president. Given the resolution that the ANC president should be the president of the country, Zuma is expected to be the party nomination to succeed Thabo Mbeki."

With the recharging of Zuma, his supporters, Friedman said, would have to decide whether to ditch him as a political burden or stick with him on the basis that he was innocent until proven guilty.

"They then have to sell it to Mbeki's supporters - so that they come up with a common position for sake of the party's unity.

"A tall order indeed given the rifts that played themselves out in Polokwane, where Zuma was supported by 60percent of the delegates," said Friedman.

Gutto has also accused Zuma's supporters, including the ANC Youth League, Cosatu, SACP and the Young Communist League of "political posturing".

"These parties have questioned the timing of the decision by the NPA to recharge Zuma.

"They have also accused the NPA of 'political machinations' by those opposed to Zuma's leadership, including Mbeki. They did not want Zuma to be charged before Polokwane, saying such a move would have amounted to blocking Zuma's chances of becoming the ANC president. Now that the NPA has decided to recharge Zuma after Polokwane they are still crying foul.

"This amounts to the kind of political posturing that should not be taken seriously," Gutto said.

All these parties have also called on the NPA to drop the charges against Zuma.

Gutto said withdrawing the charges against Zuma would be "politically disastrous" for the ANC because that would be regarded as political interference in the work of the judiciary.

Zuma faces 18 charges, including corruption, fraud, racketeering, tax evasion and money laundering.

He is said to have received R4million from convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik and French arms dealer Thint in return for using his party and government positions to further their interests.

The corruption case against Zuma was struck off the roll by the Pietermaritzburg high court last year. His new trial is to resume next August.