/ 2 February 2008

Motshekga on Zuma, fair trials and injustice

South Africans need to defend the notion of a fair trial in relation to Jacob Zuma, said African National Congress (ANC) national executive committee member Mathole Motshekga, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) news reported on Saturday.

Speaking at an ANC party gathering at Polokwane in Limpopo, Motshekga said intellectuals and judges do not have the sole preserve to determine if an injustice was done.

The National Prosecuting Authority had acted irregularly by declaring there was a prima facie case, even before it charged Zuma, said Motshekga. He said any prosecuting authority that lacks integrity and no longer understands legal language is a problem.

The former premier of Gauteng urged the nation to be more vigilant, saying it would appear the rules of the game were changing with regard to Zuma’s trial.

SABC news said Motshekga reminded the country’s president and ministers that they were serving at the whim of the ANC.

Early last month, retired chief justice Arthur Chaskalson and one of South Africa’s top lawyers, George Bizos, said Zuma’s innocence or guilt should be decided by the courts and not through rhetorical statements from his detractors or supporters.

In an unusual step in the legal world, they issued a signed statement saying: ”We are concerned at the tone of the debate around the contemplated trial of Mr Jacob Zuma.”

Chaskalson and Bizos emphasised they did not want to say anything about whether Zuma should have been charged, or the substance or lack of substance of the charges against him. ”Those are matters beyond our knowledge.”

They were concerned with only one issue, ”and that is the implication from some of the statements that have been made that our judiciary as a whole lacks the independence and integrity to ensure that Mr Zuma will receive a fair trial”.

This was harmful to the judicial process, South Africa’s constitutional democracy and the country’s reputation.

Chaskalson and Bizos appealed to all political leaders and their supporters, opinion makers, commentators and the media to let the courts decide on these issues. ”We are confident they will do so without fair or favour.” — Sapa