ANC, government square up for big fight

Anna Majavu

The Pietermaritzburg high court ruling that charges against ANC president Jacob Zuma were invalid has created a stand-off between the ruling party and the government.

Yesterday the cabinet announced that it would challenge the comments made by Judge Chris Nicholson in last Friday's ruling.

The judge had inferred that President Thabo Mbeki and former Justice Minister Pennuel Maduna had politically interfered with the decision by the national prosecuting authority (NPA) to charge Zuma.

The ANC, on the other hand, is set to decide Mbeki's fate.

Rumours have it that the party's national working committee has already decided that Mbeki should go.

The party's decision-making national executive committee is meeting from today to decide on the matter.

Yesterday ANC general-secretary Gwede Mantashe confirmed that the party's leadership would discuss Mbeki's fate. He said Mbeki had the right to clear his name "but we cannot pretend that a ruling does not exist on this matter".

In a statement yesterday the cabinet said it did not "accept the suggestion that either the president or the executive interfered with the prosecuting decisions of NPA regarding the prosecution of any person or persons".

Government spokesman Themba Maseko said the constitution and the NPA Act gave the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development political oversight over the NPA.

Media reports indicated yesterday that Mbeki was willing to step down if the ANC wanted him to.

An SMS, which the ANC said was a fake, is making the rounds claiming that national speaker Baleka Mbete will take over if the national assembly elects a new president.

The concern is that some cabinet ministers might follow Mbeki.

Time line

lFriday 12: Judge Nicholson rules that the bid by the NPA to charge Zuma is invalid. The ANCYL calls for Mbeki to be recalled.

l Sunday 14: Zuma says removing Mbeki is like hitting a "dead snake on the head".

l Monday 15: ANC national working committee meets. Its decision is kept under wraps.

lTuesday 16: ANCYL repeats call for Mbeki to be removed.

lWednesday 17: An SMS claiming that the ANC NWC has decided to axe Mbeki is released.

The NPA announces its decision to appeal against Judge Nicholson's ruling.

ANC, Cosatu and SACP come out against the decision. Cosatu says it is a declaration of war.

l Thursday 18: Cabinet announces its decision to challenge the judge's comments.