/ 7 January 2008

ANC heavyweights get down to business

The African National Congress’s national executive committee (NEC) will meet for the first time on Monday since being elected at the party’s national conference in Polokwane.

The 86 party heavyweights started their meeting in Esselen Park, north-east of Johannesburg on Monday morning.

Items on the agenda include the National Prosecuting Authority’s decision to charge new ANC president Jacob Zuma with fraud and corruption, the election of the national working committee (NWC) and preparations for the ANC’s anniversary celebrations, said ANC spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso.

Rikhotso said the 21-member NWC would play a ”more active role” in the daily running of the party. He said it would deal with matters requiring urgent attention and was expected to meet twice a month.

Rikhotso said the NEC would decide if a media briefing would be held after the meeting.

”That depends on the issues on the agenda.”

According to political analyst Adam Habib, the election of the NWC may provide pointers with regards to how the party would deal with the tension between the state and the party.

”Firstly, the two centres of power … clearly this is going to be the time to manage relations between the two [state and party]. This may well be a big item on the agenda.

”It will be interesting to see how the NWC elections turn out. If people from both camps are elected then it will be what the [ANC] president [Jacob Zuma] wanted in his closing address in Polokwane, to see unity,” said Habib.

”If the Zuma camps take the NWC, this will set the parameter for how conflict will evolve.”


Zuma (65) was on December 28 charged with fraud, corruption, money laundering, racketeering and tax evasion following a probe that also implicated French arms manufacturing group Thales.

The trial of Zuma, who married his fourth wife on Saturday, is scheduled for August 4.

Two leading South African jurists on Saturday said that the graft case against Zuma, which has attracted local and international attention, should be settled by the courts alone.

In a statement, Arthur Chaskalson, the first post-apartheid head of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, and George Bizos, ex-defence lawyer for former president Nelson Mandela, said the courts must be allowed to decide on the matter.

”Putting pressure on the courts by making serious allegations of partiality, uttering threats of massive demonstrations and expressing opinions in intemperate language are harmful to the judicial process, to our constitutional democracy and to our country’s reputation,” the statement, sent to the South African Press Association, said.

Given the ANC’s dominance of South African politics since the end of the whites-only apartheid rule in 1994, Zuma would normally expect to become the country’s president after President Thabo Mbeki’s second term of office expires in 2009.

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

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

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, one of Zuma’s biggest backers, condemned the move by the National Prosecuting Authority to charge Zuma with corruption as a ”politically inspired campaign” using state institutions to settle factional battles within the ANC.

His other supporters said that Zuma, believed to be on frosty terms with Mbeki, was the victim of a ”political vendetta”. – Sapa