Zuma deepens meaning of justice delayed is justice denied

Former President Jacob Zuma has managed to circumvent the legal process for close to two decades, through his so-called Stalingrad strategy. More is being revealed in the Zondo commission .
Former President Jacob Zuma has managed to circumvent the legal process for close to two decades, through his so-called Stalingrad strategy. More is being revealed in the Zondo commission .
Image: ALON SKUY

Justice delayed is justice denied is a legal saying which means that if legal redress or equitable relief to an injured party is available, but is not forthcoming in a timely fashion, it is effectively the same as no remedy at all.

In the case of former president Jacob Zuma, who has managed to circumvent the legal process for close to two decades, through his so-called Stalingrad strategy, the maxim can be paraphrased as justice derailed is justice denuded.

Since 2005, Zuma has done everything in his power to ensure he never answers to the allegations of fraud and corruption levelled against him although he has professed to yearning for his day in court.

Zuma came under the radar of the NPA in 2004 when his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik was charged with fraud and corruption for having solicited a R500,000 bribe for Zuma in return for his support and influence during the infamous Arms Deal. The first instance of the derailment of justice came when then NDPP Bulelani Ngcuka declined to prosecute Zuma alongside Shaik, stating that "there was prima facie evidence of corruption, but insufficient to win the case in court".

Shaik was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison but served only two years and four months, mostly in the prison hospital. He was said to be in the final stages of a terminal illness but survives to this day.

Zuma was charged with corruption in the aftermath of the Shaik trial but the case was struck off the roll. The case has taken several twists and turns since then and following judge Nicholson's inference of political interference in the case, former president Thabo Mbeki was recalled from the presidency by the ANC. Just prior to the 2009 national election, the acting NDPP Mokotedi Mphshe dropped all charges against Zuma following revelations of intercepted phone calls between the then head of the NPA, Leonard McCarthy, and Ngcuka over the timing of charging Zuma. The dropping of the charges paved the way for Zuma to ascend the highest office in the land as an alleged criminal. Since then he has managed to criminalise the state through the institutionalisation of corruption.

The Zondo commission currently hears evidence of the kleptocratic excesses of the Zuma presidency.

Mpshe's "irrational" decision was overturned in 2016 by the high court in Pretoria. Zuma then brought an application to review this judgment. Zuma still has to face charges of corruption, racketeering and money laundering. It is still a big if whether Zuma will ever see the inside of a jail cell even if convicted on the charges. Precedent dictates that justice will never be served as the delays have meant that by the time Zuma is convicted, if he ever is, he will be about 80 years of age. His seniority and Struggle credentials will mitigate on his behalf and militate against sending him to jail. For example, the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was convicted in 1991 of kidnapping 14-year-old Stompie Seipei, who was later murdered. She was handed a six-year sentence which was reduced to a fine on appeal.

In 2003, she was convicted of fraud and theft and received a five-year prison term. On appeal, the theft conviction was overturned and she was handed a three year and six month suspended sentence. It is clear even in her case that her Struggle background came through for her with justice rendered a casualty.

With prospects of Zuma ever going to jail fading by the day, the justice project will lose its bite. Indeed, justice derailed is justice denuded.

Lee is a Sowetan reader and regular letter contributor

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