/ 5 August 2008

Zuma thrills fans as court bid continues

Jacob Zuma’s court bid continues in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday, and the African National Congress leader has promised to explain the reason for the two-day court case to his supporters.

His supporters were expected to arrive at the court from 9am onwards. Early morning, journalists outnumbered police officers deployed outside the court as Pietermaritzburg residents went about their business as usual. Television crews were setting up their equipment while hawkers unpacked Zuma merchandise.

On Monday, Zuma’s claim that he had the right to be heard before he was charged with corruption took centre stage in the court.

As technical legal arguments proceeded, about 4 000 supporters chanted outside the court building amid tight police security.

Advocate Kemp J Kemp, representing Zuma, told the court if the relevant section of the Constitution did not apply to the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), it would allow the state to change decisions constantly without representations being made.

Kemp, who was asked by Judge Chris Nicholson to speak louder, said that if the writers of the Constitution had meant that section 179(5)(d) did not apply to the NDPP, they would have expressly included it.

Zuma is claiming that the NDPP was obliged in terms of that section to give him the opportunity to make representations before it decided to prosecute him in 2005 and 2007. He is seeking to have the decision to prosecute him declared unlawful because the state had not adhered to the provisions of the Constitution.

Asked by Nicholson if there was any ambiguity in the relevant section, Kemp said: ”I don’t see the ambiguity and I don’t see the uncertainty.”

Nicholson questioned whether it was ever contemplated that the NDPP itself would take decisions to prosecute when section 179(5)(d) was written.

Zuma is claiming that the decision to prosecute him was a reversal of a decision taken by the former national director of public prosections Bulelani Ngcuka, who announced in August 2003 that the National Prosecuting Authority would not prosecute Zuma because it did not believe that it had a ”winnable case”.

Prosecutors’ rights
However, advocate Wim Trengove, representing the state, argued that section 179(5)(d) was not designed to protect the rights of the accused, but rather to protect the rights of the directors of public prosecution having their decisions overturned by the NDPP without consideration.

He said that the appointment of an NDPP had come about because under the apartheid dispensation, attorney generals found themselves directly under the control of the country’s justice ministers.

Trengove pointed out that if the NDPP changed a decision and decided not to prosecute, it was highly unlikely that the accused would be asked to give representation before a prosecution was withdrawn.

He said it is not normal for prosecutors to hear representation from an accused before deciding whether to prosecute.

Trengove pointed out that the decision to prosecute initiates a whole process and that ultimately accused persons have the right to present any infringement of their rights during trial. The decision to prosecute is merely a trigger; the ultimate examination of the rights takes place during a criminal trial.

Shortly after lunch on Monday, Nicholson ordered that the criminal case against French arms manufacturing giant Thint be postponed until December 8. Thint is facing charges of fraud and corruption alongside Zuma.

State prosecutor Billy Downer said agreement had been reached between the state and Thint’s legal team. Details of the agreement were not immediately disclosed in court. He released Thint chief executive Pierre Moynot from attending the remaining court proceedings.

‘Half a lawyer’
Speaking to a crowd of about 4 000 outside the court at the end of the day’s proceedings, Zuma joked that he had seen the inside of a court so many times that he felt like ”half a lawyer” and understood terms like sub judice.

He did not speak at length for fear of pre-empting the court’s decision, and said he would explain the reason for the two-day court case on Tuesday.

”So that you can get it from me, instead of those who like telling stories without knowing what is happening,” he said. He would also explain to his followers what their support meant and what it was they were defending by standing by him, he said.

He concluded his talk by launching into a rendition of Umshini Wami (Bring Me My Machine Gun), to the great delight of those who had come to see him.

Prior to his speech, hundreds of people had been staring through the barricades surrounding the court entrance, waiting for him to emerge. When he finally did, they kicked up a deafening din of cheering, whistling and vuvuzela-blowing.

Congress of South Africans Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told the crowd there had been a ”big systematic campaign coordinated elsewhere” to make the Constitution apply to everyone but Zuma.

He took a swipe at ”some sections” of the media that had been employed to launch a ”media trial”, adding: ”We do believe that one of us [Zuma] has been subjected to the worst forms of humiliation and kangaroo courts conducted through the media. We are here to say, ‘Hands off our president.”’

South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande began his speech with the ditty ”My mother was a kitchen boy, my father was a garden boy, that’s why I am a communist” before criticising ”analysts” and the media for lacking a proper understanding of justice.

He said it began long before someone appeared in court, a reference to the ”trial by media” to which Zuma’s supporters feel the ANC president had been subjected.

Earlier in the day, Nzimande told reporters outside the courtroom: ”[This case] is a huge injustice. It’s raising the political temperature, which is not good for our young democracy.”

Responding to allegations that Zuma was being ”persecuted” and not prosecuted, National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Tlali Tlali called for those who made such claims to produce evidence.

”There’s a rule of law which says, ‘He who alleges must prove.’ We have yet to see a shred of evidence to that effect,” he said. — Sapa