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02 Jan 2008 07:30
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Tuesday denied that the decision to prosecute African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma had been forced upon it by Zuma’s opponents.
“The NPA is sensitive to the controversy that this decision [to prosecute Zuma] evokes. We are also aware of claims that the NPA is being misused to advance the political and other objectives of certain individuals.
This is not so.
Zuma, who two weeks ago trounced former ANC president Thabo Mbeki in the battle for the ruling party’s top spot, was served with an indictment on Friday last week to stand trial in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
Zuma faces 16 charges in total—one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud.
The two South African subsidiaries of Thales International (formerly Thomson-CFS)—Thint Holding (Southern Africa) and Thint—each face a charge of racketeering, and two counts of corruption.
The racketeering, money-laundering and tax-evasion charges were new—in addition to the arms deal-related fraud and corruption charges that were earlier struck off the court roll.
Zuma’s key allies, the ANC Youth League, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) on Saturday slammed the charges, saying they were driven by a “political vendetta” and it were part of a “politically inspired campaign”.
Youth League president Fikile Mbalula accused Mbeki of being “behind the scenes”.
The timing of the indictment had the “hallmarks of vengeance, deep-seated anger and frustration by the NPA and whoever else is behind this”, said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven in a statement on Saturday.
“It is clear that Jacob Zuma’s human rights, including the right to a speedy and fair trial, have been systematically and grossly violated.
“The only reason to serve the indictment during this period, for a trial that will only commence eight months from now, is that those behind this move aim to disrupt his well-deserved rest,” Cosatu said.
Tlali said on Tuesday that the decision to prosecute Zuma and Thint was taken “after careful consideration of the facts and evidence. This decision was further reinforced by the various rulings in the high courts, the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court in South Africa, relating to the same subject matter.”
He said evidence obtained prior to the trial of Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, as well as evidence that emerged during the Shaik trial and evidence obtained after the trial had also led to the decision to prosecute.
“The charge sheet speaks for itself and it would be imprudent to make pronouncements about a case in which criminal proceedings are effectively under way.”
The case has been set down for August 4 this year, but Tlali said the NPA would be prepared to start at an earlier date “should the defence so wish”.—Sapa
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