/ 1 August 2008

Zuma in prison overalls? Never, say supporters

South Africa should be worried about the implications of African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma’s Constitutional Court setback, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKVA) said on Friday.

The Constitutional Court on Thursday upheld a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling declaring search-and-seizure warrants executed on Zuma’s homes and offices lawful.

Documents seized in the raids can now form part of his high court trial on 16 counts including fraud and money-laundering.

Speaking at the launch of a signature campaign on behalf of Zuma, MKVA chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe said the organisation has always believed that the ANC president’s case is a political one masquerading as a criminal case.

Joined by representatives of the ANC Youth League and the Young Communist League (YCL), Maphatsoe said developments around the Zuma case and his ”constant hounding” by the state bear testimony to this assertion.

”What is even more perplexing is that the [Constitutional] Court took this long to decide on whether to uphold the Supreme Court [of Appeal] ruling or not,” he said.

”The timing of this was very interesting. It is made on the eve of the president’s (Zuma’s) appearance in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday.”

YCL national secretary Buti Manamela said suggestions by the Constitutional Court that the litigation process had been a waste of time and that other efforts to challenge the process could seen as illegitimate were ”very poisonous”. He said these could easily influence the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

However, Manamela said: ”We guarantee that Zuma will be the president of the country … what won’t happen is even imagining him wearing orange [prison] overalls.”

The signature campaign includes an SMS service where members of the public who feel aggrieved by the outcomes of Zuma’s court cases can send messages, at a cost of R3 per SMS.

The action will also be supported by a signature campaign at taxi ranks, bus stations, workplaces, railway stations and tertiary education institutions.

Dlodlo added that the campaign will be audited.

ANC ‘continues to support Zuma’
Meanwhile, the ANC has not pronounced on the merits of the charges against Zuma, says Zuma’s deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, the leader of government business in Parliament.

Writing in the online party newsletter, ANC Today, on Friday, Motlanthe said that the ANC does not have the capacity nor the mandate to investigate, consider and pronounce on such matters.

”But the ANC does reserve its right to comment on matters that violate the rights of the individual, and which undermine the proper application of justice,” he said.

Motlanthe said that when Zuma appears in the Pietermaritzburg High Court next week, not only will he be accompanied by a contingent of ANC leaders, but he will also have the support of hundreds of thousands of ANC members.

Those who criticise the ANC for its stance, and those who have waged a bitter campaign of attrition against Zuma, take the general approach that Zuma is guilty and that it is up to him to prove his innocence, he said.

Some take the view that though he may not have been found guilty, he is at least tainted by the charges that have been levelled against him.

”But if, as a society, we are serious about what we have enshrined in our Bill of Rights, we are bound to accept that the presumption of innocence is not partial or discretionary,” Motlanthe said. ”Until such time as a court tells us otherwise, Jacob Zuma is an innocent person. That is why the ANC has supported him until now, and will continue to support him.”

This matter is not simply about Zuma, Motlanthe continued. ”It is about the principles and practices upon which we intend to build a new society, one that is democratic, just and equitable,” he said.

”It is also about the assertion of the right of any group of people to freely choose whom they wish to lead them. The members of the ANC have unequivocally said that they want Jacob Zuma to be their president. They have further said that they will be putting him forward as the ANC’s candidate for president of South Africa in the 2009 elections.

”The ANC will therefore vigorously resist any attempts to undermine the collective will of its membership or the freely expressed will of the South African people.

”As the ANC has repeatedly said, we seek no special treatment for our president. We simply ask that he be treated fairly and justly.” — Sapa, I-Net Bridge