/ 29 September 2003

Zuma hits back at ‘malicious’ Ngcuka

The Office of the Presidency on Monday issued a statement by Deputy President Jacob Zuma in which he reacts to media reports about a “secret briefing” that the National Director for Public Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, had with black editors in July this year.

Ngcuka allegedly discussed cases he was investigating and imparted to the editors and senior journalists “in a very malicious and despicable manner untruthful information about me”, says Zuma in his statement.

Zuma has been in the spotlight for his alleged role in the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal, and Zuma and Ngcuka have been involved in a public row after Ngcuka said there was a prima facie case of corruption against the deputy president, but declined to prosecute.

“The briefing was clearly designed to entrench rumours and prejudice and to influence reporting and commentary on the cases. This conduct was in contravention of the confidentiality that is required in all investigations, in terms of the laws of the land. It also contravened the fundamental principle that individuals are innocent until or unless found guilty,” says Zuma.

The meeting has been compared to previous government briefings, but those briefings would not have been to “assassinate characters of individuals”.

A Mail & Guardian editorial published on September 26 states that the M&G’s editor attended the “off-the-record” briefing in question, but said it was an “urban legend” that Ngcuka used the briefing to solicit support from black editors in his investigation of Zuma.

The editorial also denies that some editors “have taken sides in the ongoing war between Ngcuka and those he is investigating for corruption” and that some of the editors have been suppressing stories about claims that Ngcuka was an apartheid-era spy.

In his statement, Zuma repeats his claim that the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions has treated him “grossly unfairly” and that he is the victim of a “well-orchestrated smear campaign through the media”. He also reiterates his objection to the methods used to conduct the investigation and his doubts about the true motives of the investigation.

“The national director does not need to persuade the media as to the strength of his case, nor does he need to ask the media for support. He needs to convince the courts of law as our democracy subscribes to the rule of law. This clearly cannot be allowed to continue.”

Public prosecutions spokesperson Sipho Ngwema is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.