/ 12 January 2009

Zuma decision unlikely to count against ANC

Read the full judgement

The Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that opened the way for corruption charges to be levelled against African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma may not count against the party in the elections, political analyst Steven Friedman told the Mail & Guardian Online on Monday.

”It is a minus for the ANC but, you know, party loyalties in this country are very strong and I think in the end they’ll hold their nose and vote for the ANC.”

”Of course there will be a lot of people in the ANC who will be unhappy about the ruling and will want a special deal, however, I think the vast majority will still vote ANC.”

The ruling comes only months before a general election in which the ANC faces its toughest challenge since the end of apartheid and re-opening the case could damage Zuma’s image and create uncertainty.

The Supreme Court of Appeal said in its judgement that High Court judge Chris Nicholson made several errors in a September 12 2008 ruling.

”The appeal is upheld with costs,” Judge Louis Harms said in reading the judgement of five appeal court judges.

The National Prosecuting Authority welcomed the ruling and said Zuma remained charged.

Friedman said the ruling will not have much of an effect on Zuma’s image, ”it will just perhaps serve to get the relevant parties to confirm their positions”.

”If a deal is worked out, it must be evident Mr Zuma doesn’t evade the law because he is president of the ANC. I think it’s time to ask: ‘Are we going to land up with an outcome where we could realistically say the same would have happened if Mr Zuma was an unemployed shack-dweller?”’

The party said in a statement after the judgement that it was important to note that it had nothing to do with the guilt or otherwise of the ANC president.

”Nor does it make any pronouncements on the merits of the charges previously brought by the NPA,” said the party in a statement.

”The ANC respects the decision of the court without reservation. The ANC and its president reserves the right to pursue all options available in law. The ANC reiterates its position that the judgement will not affect the decision of the ANC that Zuma be the ANC’s presidential candidate for the 2009 elections.”

”The ANC will not accept that a decision democratically taken by the ANC membership at its national conference be reversed on the basis of untested allegations.”

Leon Joubert, Democratic Alliance spokesperson on justice, said: ”I concur fully with Judge Harmse. In principle it is a very sound judgement. What will happen now is they will have to recharge Mr Zuma. It is back to square one.”

He added that the judge made some interesting points in his ruling, saying that Mr Zuma was never prevented from having his day in court.

Investor worry
The SCA decision on Jacob Zuma may worry international investors, an economist said on Monday.

”The Zuma issue has to be resolved from an international investment point of view,” said Kevin Lings, economist at Stanlib.

”South Africans have lived with the Zuma issue for a long time — but for foreign investors, the decision will mean uncertainty — and questions on economic policy will arise too.”

Economist Dawie Roodt of the Efficient Group, however, said the SCA’s decision on Zuma was ”positive” as it showed that the country’s institutions were still respected and still strong.

”One of the most important features of a successful country is its institutions — it is important that they are healthy. If institutions are working properly, then that’s good for the economy,” Roodt said.

”It didn’t matter which way the judgement went — as long as the judiciary was shown to be solid, unpartisan and independent.”