/ 30 December 2007

NPA: Mbeki not behind Zuma charges

South Africa’s prosecuting chief on Sunday denied claims that President Thabo Mbeki was behind the filing of a string of charges against his rival, Jacob Zuma, the new leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

Allies of Zuma, elected president of the ANC earlier this month, have alleged that the decision to charge Zuma with corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering was politically motivated.

But Mokeketedi Mpshe, acting National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head, told a newspaper that the decision to formally charge Zuma on Friday for a trial due to begin in August 2008 was made independently.

”It’s got nothing to do with the president,” he told the Sunday Independent.

”It’s absolute nonsense. [Mbeki] does not even know we were going to charge [Zuma] or what we were going to charge him with.”

Zuma’s victory over Mbeki in a recent ANC leadership contest has fuelled fears that South Africa is facing a lengthy period of political infighting between two rival centres of power before Mbeki stands down as head of state in 2009.

Zuma was sacked by Mbeki in 2005 after his financial adviser was found guilty of soliciting bribes on his behalf.

The ANC Youth League (ANCYL), one of Zuma’s main backers in the leadership contest, directly accused Mbeki on Saturday of being a ”behind-the-scenes-player” in the decision to charge Zuma after a lengthy investigation.

Zuma has said he will stand down from the ANC if found guilty of any offence but he has steadfastly insisted on his innocence.


South African prosecutors on Friday slapped Zuma with the charges. Zuma’s supporters have cried foul over the timing of this, a little over a week since he was elected leader of the ANC, which may scupper his hopes of becoming head of state in 2009.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) denounced the move as a ”politically inspired campaign”.

”The timing of the indictment has all the hallmarks of vengeance, deep-seated anger and frustration by the NPA and whoever else is behind this,” said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven. ”We are convinced that Jacob Zuma will not have a fair trial.”

Zuma’s attorney, Michael Hulley, said in a statement mailed to Agence France-Presse that the timing of the indictment was ”peculiar” and that it proved the Scorpions were ”influenced and their prosecution informed by political considerations”.

Pretoria-based political analyst Adam Habib said that while there was nothing legally wrong, the timing of the announcement may be seen as ”acrimonious”.

”The Zuma camp has been saying for years that there is a political conspiracy — it will reinforce the view that was already there,” he said. — Sapa-AFP