The war of attrition between Bulelani Ngcuka and Deputy President Jacob Zuma this week verged closer to an assumption of full public hostilities when the deputy president filed suit in the Pretoria High Court against the national director of public prosecutions.
Zuma on Wednesday brought the application in an attempt to force Ngcuka to hand over a copy of the original handwritten letter in which French arms executive Alain Thetard allegedly confirmed Zuma’s demand for a R500 000 annual bribe.
To date only a typed version of the letter has been produced by Ngcuka’s prosecutors and it is assumed Zuma wants to reveal publicly what may be one weakness in Ngcuka’s case against Schabir Shaik (in court) and against Zuma (for now, only in the court of public opinion). The application is to be heard on September 15.
More telling than the application itself, perhaps, was the sniping that it clearly contained. Marumo Moerane, counsel for Ngcuka, tried to get Judge Bernard Ngoepe to rule that an affidavit or affidavits in support of Zuma’s application could not be published, on the grounds that they contained ”serious allegations” about prominent people.
Moerane argued that Zuma’s papers should only be released to the public once Ngcuka’s replying affidavits were available too.
Ngoepe refused to make the order, but in spite of this — in a departure from normal court procedure — the papers were not in the public court file. Neither side was willing to provide copies to the media.
It is understood the Zuma papers tar people who may have been involved in the process leading to Ngcuka’s decision to charge Shaik but not Zuma. The papers may also further the Zuma camp’s argument that Ngcuka’s actions were politically charged.
The sniping between the two camps may well increase in the run-up to the September 15 hearing, and beyond. If recent history between the two men is any measure, more damaging leaks may occur. But for now, Zuma, as the country’s second-highest public figure, remains firmly accused in the court of public opinion. Here are some questions the public may well want answers to, Mr Zuma:
Where were you on March 11 2000? (Zuma has denied he met Schabir Shaik and French arms dealer Alain Thetard at the Durban Holiday Inn that day to confirm his demand for a bribe. But he has not provided an alibi and said where he was.)
Did you write the letter to Gavin Woods, then chairperson of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), on January 19 2001, which effectively scuppered the previous tacit support you had given the Scopa investigation into the arms deal, and which marked the beginning of the end for Scopa’s impartiality in the matter? (There were hints at the time that someone else in the presidency had written the letter and attached Zuma’s name to it. Another excellent alibi, if true, although embarrassing to someone else.)
How exactly were your various overdrafts and debts settled in each case? (It is alleged Zuma was bankrolled by or through Shaik to the tune of R1,2-million.)
Why did you not declare any conflict of interest and recuse yourself from the many dealings you had with businesses and projects in which Shaik had an interest? (Shaik was Zuma’s financial adviser, yet, according to the Shaik charge sheet, Zuma – far from recusing himself – was quite happy to promote Shaik’s business dealings.)
Do you not feel your executive positions from 1994 demanded that you should have separated your financial affairs from the control of a businessman with active interests in government and parastatal tenders? (Shaik’s group has benefited from numerous government and semi-government contracts.)
If the Scorpions investigation is politically motivated, as you and your supporters have alleged, then what and who is behind it? (There have been many dark mutterings by Zuma’s supporters, all the way up to African National Congress secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe, about hidden agendas and conspiracies. If the information is hard, why not present it openly to the court of public opinion?)
Were you and the ANC secret shareholders of Shaik’s Nkobi group and, if so in the ANC’s case, who was aware of and sanctioned that? (According to the charge sheet against Shaik, the ANC secretly held 10%. The party has denied it holds shares, and Shaik has denied that either hold shares.)
Did you hold meetings with any of the other bidders in the arms deal?
Will you make public your full declaration of assets and liabilities since 1999, as set out in your annual declaration in terms of the Executive Ethics Act? (Unlike some details in the parliamentary declarations, the executive declarations are not made public without the member’s consent.)
If you have information that throws a different light on the ”real story” as your friend Schabir Shaik and other supporters keep hinting, why don’t you come out and provide it?