Sweet day for justice
Back in 2009, the ANC set up a task team headed by then housing minister Lindiwe Sisulu to contrive ways of saving Jacob Zuma from criminal prosecution.
Zuma was ANC president and just months away from becoming the country’s head of state.
South Africa was facing the prospect of having a president who would be facing a criminal trial while in office and thus spending his governing time in the dock. Foreign travel would have become impossible, thus rendering his role as the nation’s prime representative useless.
Furthermore, if he were convicted, he would have had to give up office and turn his cell in Westville Prison into his Union Buildings’ West Wing. Instead of presiding over Cabinet meetings, he would be sitting with the heads of the local 26s and 28s. His experience of the shower would have been very, very different from the one he says he used to avoid contracting HIV.
Luckily for him, he still enjoyed a great deal of loyalty from the ANC, whose senior leaders strong-armed then acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe into dropping the charges. In one of the most disgraceful episodes in post-1994 South Africa, the Sisulu task team conjured up an insane legal argument. With the use of mysteriously obtained tapes and a gun to Mpshe’s head – or was it a juicy carrot in front of his mouth – Zuma’s charges were made to go away.
In May that year, he took the oath of office and promised to be faithful to the republic and uphold the Constitution. We all know that he used the next nine years to consciously wreck the republic and smear the Constitution with cow dung from his Nkandla cattle culvert.
Friday’s decision by National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams to reinstate the charges undoes that shameful decision and restores our faith that this is indeed a country of laws. It took nine years of litigation by the DA to get to this point. Zuma abused public resources to avoid answering for his alleged crimes and possibly clear his name. The presidential office became his fortress and he did his damnedest to turn law enforcement agencies into his personal army.
He will face charges that go right back to his days as KwaZulu-Natal economic affairs MEC, while he was a servant to Schabir Shaik and a slew of businesspeople. In the coming months, we will refamiliarise ourselves with names that we became used to between 2002, when his allegedly corrupt ways were first exposed, and 2009, when the charges were dropped.
There will be Shaik, once Zuma’s prime handler. Sentenced to 15 years in prison but released after a few months because he was about to die, Shaik is now an incredible golfer and occasional brawler. There will be Jürgen Kögl, the Namibian-born businessman who opened his pockets to Zuma. There will be Norah Fakude-Nkuna, the Mpumalanga businesswoman with whom Zuma is said to have shared many smiles and much, much more.
South Africans will be reacquainted with the incarnations of Thomson CSF/Thint/Thales and its former director Alain Thetard, who wrote the infamous encrypted fax in which he offered Zuma a bribe in return for his using his deputy presidency office to shield the company from arms-deal related corruption claims. Nkobi, the surname of struggle legend Thomas Nkobi – soiled by Shaik’s appropriating it as a company name – will return. A name that will need no reintroduction will be that of Vivian Reddy, the socialite businessman and Zuma benefactor who was there at the birth of the Nkandla corruption museum.
In the years that we forgot these names, Zuma collected a new crowd of sugar daddies and sugar mommies. Whether it was the Guptas, Maria Gomez or Roy Moodley, these blessers fed Zuma’s insatiable parasitism. But that is a story for another day and another court.
While Zuma being charged again is a sweet day for the rule of law and South Africa’s war against corruption, it poses dangers. Zuma is a selfish man who has shown himself to care little for the national interest. We should not be surprised to see him use his acres of time to mobilise a disorderly fightback against the justice system, as he did when he first faced trial.
He has already started cosying up to the thuggish elements in the funeral industry and the tender hijackers who terrorise KwaZulu-Natal’s construction industry. As is his wont, he will not hesitate to appeal to the ethnic nationalist stream within the KwaZulu-Natal ANC. But South Africa should not be intimidated. He is no longer the same Zuma who could manipulate the masses with his appeal to victimhood. He may still be popular, but many have seen through him and it will be difficult to get enough of a groundswell to threaten the state.
A critical takeaway from the past nine years is that we should never compromise with wrongdoers. The post-Polokwane brigade knowingly saved one of Africa’s dirtiest men from justice and then gave him the keys to the national vault. Look where that got us. The likes of Sisulu have a lot to answer for, for what happened in the past nine years. Their deliberate and expedient mistake should be a warning to all of us who are tempted to protect wrongdoers.