'anc on the back

SUPPORT: ANC members react after Judge Louis Harms made the ruling against Jacob Zuma yesterday at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontien. 12/01/2009. Pic. Unknown. © AP.
SUPPORT: ANC members react after Judge Louis Harms made the ruling against Jacob Zuma yesterday at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontien. 12/01/2009. Pic. Unknown. © AP.

Ido Lekota and Kingdom Mabuza

Ido Lekota and Kingdom Mabuza

Three days after the successful launch of its election manifesto, the ANC finds itself on a political back footing following yesterday's Supreme Court of Appeal ruling which effectively reinstated corruption and fraud charges against Jacob Zuma.

Zuma is the ANC's presidential candidate and the face of the party's election campaign.

Five judges of the SCA overturned last year's ruling by Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Chris Nicholson that the National Prosecuting Authority's decision to recharge Zuma was driven by political meddling.

The ruling means Zuma will still face racketeering, money laundering, corruption and fraud charges relating to the country's multi-million arms deal.

Yesterday NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali said the NPA and Zuma's legal team would discuss the setting of a trial date.

Analysts agree the decision will impact on the ANC's election campaign because opposition parties will exploit the fact that the man leading the campaign is facing corruption charges.

Ironically, the ANC in its manifesto makes an undertaking to fight corruption.

"Does the ANC want a candidate facing criminal charges?

How is the ANC going to convince the electorate about fighting corruption?" asked political analyst Prince Mashele.

Another analyst, Somadoda Fikeni, said the judgment "has pushed the ANC into an uncomfortable terrain wherein values, principles and attributes of a good leader would be under scrutiny."

Centre for Policy Studies head Steven Friedman said a significant number of voters would be uncomfortable having to vote for a candidate on trial. Friedman also said ANC sympathisers who had previously supported the party were not happy with Zuma being the presidential candidate.

He, however, conceded that the decision would not have an effect on traditional ANC supporters.

SA Institute of International Affairs analyst Tim Hughes also argued that yesterday's decision was creating uncertainty within the international community.

"The issue is no more about whether Zuma is guilty or not. It is the irresolution that creates the kind of uncertainty that both the markets and international community is averse to," Hughes said.

ANC spokesman Jessie Duarte said the judgment would not affect the decision to support Zuma as the ANC's presidential candidate.

"It is important to note that this judgment has nothing to do with the guilt or otherwise of the ANC president," said Duarte.

Cosatu and the SACP are also expected to embark on a campaign to drive the message that the charges against Zuma were part of a conspiracy.

"Cosatu remains convinced that the whole prosecution process is politically motivated. We continue to demand the dropping of all charges," said spokesman Patrick Craven.

The SACP's Malesela Maleka said nothing in the judgment "changes the fact that the prosecution and persecution of the ANC president is politically inspired."

University of KwaZulu-Natal political lecturer Zakhele Ndlovu said while the opposition had enough ammunition to nail the ANC at the polls, should the ANC succeed to present Zuma as a victim of a conspiracy, the party could get many sympathisers.

The SCA judges gave Nicholson a tongue-lashing for his judgment, describing it as "incomprehensible. Political meddling was not an issue that had to be determined," said acting Deputy Judge President Louis Harms, while handing down judgment.

The judges also cleared former president Thabo Mbeki, whom Nicholson had accused of political interference. Harmse said allegations against Mbeki and his cabinet ministers were "of the judge's own conspiracy theory and not one advanced by Mr Zuma".