Mbeki hits back at critics

President Thabo Mbeki hit back at his critics on Friday, saying “insults hurled” at him were not based on facts.

Mbeki denied “for the record” that he had any involvement in the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to appeal against a ruling that the prosecution of African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma was invalid.

“We would like to state, for the record, that the NDPP [National Directorate of Public Prosecutions] neither met nor communicated with the president or any official in the Presidency before making its determination,” the Presidency said.

In a statement released to the media on the day that the ANC national executive committee starts a meeting to decide whether to remove Mbeki from office, he questioned the allegations levelled against him.

“Does freedom of expression accord us the right to tell lies?” he asked through his spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga.

“Does the constitutional right to freedom of expression license an assault on the constitutional right to the dignity of persons, a fundamental precept of the indigenous cultural value system of Ubuntu?”

Mbeki has been in the firing line since Judge Chris Nicholson ruled last week that the decision to prosecute Zuma on fraud and corruption charges was invalid, a ruling that the NPA has decided to appeal.

Also in his judgement, Nicholson said he could not exclude the possibility of political interference in Zuma’s prosecution.

ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has publicly called for Mbeki to be removed from office after Nicholson’s ruling.

Former judge Willem Heath, in the Mail & Guardian on Friday, called for criminal charges to be brought against Mbeki and his former justice minister, Penuell Maduna.

Mbeki said several “matters of concern” arose from the claim that he was involved in the NPA decision to appeal the ruling.

“They include ... [that] no evidence has been provided by those making the claim.”

Also, “the language that some of the proponents have employed is not only damaging to the integrity of the institution of the Presidency and other organs of state, but is also injurious to the dignity and person of the president”.

“The dignity of this office forbids that we quote any of the statements to which we refer. They are, as is well known, daily communicated through the public media,” said Mbeki.

“Of grave concern is the growing tendency to hurl insults at organs of state and to present demeaning caricatures of public representatives, the young and in particular the elderly,” said Mbeki.

“What kind of society are we building, informed by what value system and with what long-term effect to the political and overall moral health of the nation?” asked Mbeki.—Sapa

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