/ 8 January 2008

ANC stands by Zuma despite charges

Top leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) said on Tuesday they had ”grave misgivings” about the timing and handling of corruption charges against newly elected leader Jacob Zuma.

The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) said after its first meeting since Zuma was elected party president that it questioned the National Prosecuting Authority’s handling of the charges against him and said Zuma would still be their candidate for state president in 2009.

In a statement after the meeting, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the party’s top body had ”reaffirmed its support for the ANC president during these trying times”.

”It [the NEC] confirmed that the ANC president will lead the ANC election campaign as the organisation’s candidate for president of South Africa in the 2009 election,” Mantashe added.

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

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

Zuma has said he will stand down from his position 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, Schabir Shaik, was found guilty of soliciting bribes.

Cosatu takes issue

Meanwhile, former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson and liberation struggle lawyer George Bizos on Saturday issued a joint statement attacking Zuma supporters, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), for making reckless statements that Zuma’s corruption charges should be dismissed.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said instead of criticising the union for making statements that were said to undermine the independence of the judiciary, the two veteran lawyers should rather direct their concerns to those who have been violating Zuma’s rights.

”Cosatu fully supports an independent judiciary and shares the judges’ fears that it is under threat.

”We believe, however, that they should not be criticising Cosatu, but [rather] the people who are manipulating the judicial system for their own political ends,” he said.

January 8

The new NEC is dominated by Zuma supporters.

The 28 NWC members are responsible for the day to day running of the organisation.

Among the other issues discussed were the party’s traditional ”January 8” statement and the NPA charges.

Zuma was expected to deliver the statement in Atteridgeville in Tshwane on Saturday.

The ANC was founded on January 8 1912 and it has become customary for the NEC to release a statement mapping its tasks for the year ahead. – Reuters, Sapa-AFP