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Mail & Guardian Online reporter and Sapa, Sapa-AFP06 Apr 2009 14:47
There was an outpouring of joy among ANC supporters as the National Prosecuting Authority announced on Monday that it was dropping the charges against ANC president Jacob Zuma.
ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa said the NPA had finally seen the light.
“We have always said Zuma is innocent, and today it was the NPA who said it. We say to the NPA: at last you have seen the light, you have finally seen the truth,” Phosa said.
He was addressing a crowd of ANC supporters and representatives of the party’s alliance members such as the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, who had gathered on Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, to celebrate Zuma’s victory.
The crowd, clad in the black, yellow and green colours of the ANC, as well as red Nehawu T-shirts, clapped and cheered as Phosa criticised the media for what he said was the negative reporting on the Zuma charges.
“Those in the media who have been prosecuting him every day should hang their heads in shame,” said Phosa.
The crowd, which had earlier danced to Zuma’s trademark Awuleth’ Umshini Wami, then began walking from Mary Fitzgerald Square to Luthuli House to be addressed by senior ANC leaders.
Outside Luthuli House supporters jumped up and down, shook hands and shed tears when Mpshe made the announcement.
“This is the end of the road for Zuma, we are free at last” Veronica Malema from Diepkloof, Soweto, told the Mail & Guardian Online, her eyes filling with tears.
“This case has dragged for far too long and it has delayed the victory of our president who we have always known is clean”, said Malema.
“We can all carry on with our lives now”, said Susan Kgotle, adding that she was disturbed by what was said in the tapes.
“I cannot believe how sick those people are, how can they plot against him like that, but it is good because the truth has finally come out”.
Gauteng Premier Paul Mashatile, in his address at Mary Fitzgerald Square, said :“We have no doubt that under the leadership of Jacob Zuma South Africa is going to be a better country.”
The NPA said there had been allegations of collusion between the former heads of the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) and the NPA.
Referring to transcripts of telephonic conversations between Leonard McCarthy from the DSO and Bulelani Ngcuka from the NPA, the acting national director of the NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe, said it was clear that the prosecution process had been manipulated.
At the height of this was the timing of a decision to charge Zuma and whether this would be done before or after the December 2007 Polokwane conference where Zuma was elected the new leader of the ANC.
In one of the transcripts, dated before the Polokwane conference on November 26 2007, it appears that Ngcuka requests McCarthy to bolster the argument that charges should be brought before Polokwane.
Mpshe quotes McCarthy as saying: “I have done exactly what you wanted me to do.”
At this time, Ngcuka was no longer employed at the NPA.
Mpshe further quotes McCarthy as saying to Ngcuka: “The team says we have been fucking around with this thing—we must now take action and deal with this thing ‘finish and klaar’ as [suspended police chief] Jackie Selebi says.”
In another conversation, a few days before Polokwane, McCarthy says to Ngcuka: “I think you guys must just keep your heads open about the when factor, because I mean we will file our documents tomorrow, we will, Mpshe is going on leave tomorrow and I am acting.”
Mpshe shook his head incredulously as he read out the last part, evoking laughter from journalists.
Later, in the same conversation, Ngcuka says: “As long as you don’t do it this weekend.”
McCarthy responds: “If we hold it back, it will be because the clever people like you and others are saying to us that the country needs cool heads. I would hate to have been seen to be wrong later.”
Ngcuka repeats, “just don’t do it this weekend”.
McCarthy says to Ngcuka, “it might change”.
“I can’t keep an open mind. You can’t do it this weekend. Our minds won’t change,” says Ngcuka.
There are also transcripts indicating apparent political affiliation and allegiance to former president Thabo Mbeki.
Mpshe also quoted from a voicemail message McCarthy left for a person identified as F Davids.
The message from McCarthy says: “I am Thabo man. I mean we are still wiping the blood from our faces, or egg, or egg and blood from our faces. Saw the man on Friday evening. We planning a comeback strategy and once we have achieved that we will clean up all around us, my friend. Bye.”
There were also calls indicating that the filing of papers in Zuma’s case to the Constitutional Court were also manipulative.
This refers to discussions about filing the papers earlier so that it could be reported on in the media before the delegates left for Polokwane.
In the discussion, McCarthy says: “Friday, by Friday, people are packing bags. They won’t even read the fucking newspapers.”
To which Ngcuka responds: “That is the thing ... that is why it will be good if it could come out today [Wednesday December 12 2007].”
McCarthy replies: “Today is difficult. I will call a Yengeni night. We are not leaving here until we finalise this thing tomorrow morning. We file by lunch time and give it to the media.”
Ngcuka responds: “You made my day”.
The meaning of the reference to former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni, was not immediately clear.
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said on Monday that the decision to drop charges was a political one.
“All indications are that the NDPP [National Director of Public Prosecutions] has not taken a decision based in law, but that it has buckled to political pressure.
“Two weeks before the election, it now portrays Jacob Zuma as a wronged victim in a show trial.”
Zille said she believed that the evidence presented by the National Director of Public Prosecutions on Monday did not change the fact that there was a strong case against Zuma.
“That case must go to court.”
She said the selective quotations from transcripts of bugged telephone conversations did not affect the substantive merits of the case against Zuma.
“It merely points to political manipulation in the timing of the NPA’s decision to re-charge Zuma.”
Zille said evidence in the case must be examined and cross-examined in court.
“If the individuals whose telephone calls were recorded are guilty of criminal conduct they must be charged too.”
At the moment South Africa had the worst of all possible worlds, “with selective prosecutions depending on who holds political office”, said Zille.
“It is clear that the NPA is compromised in this matter.”
She said the decision to drop the charges was “irrational” and “unlawful”.
“In the past week our legal team has been preparing the groundwork to take this matter further before the courts, should the need arise.”
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