Zuma: I was a victim of abuse

African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma on Tuesday said he was a victim of a ”systematic abuse of power” and that there was no cloud of corruption hanging over him.

”There is no cloud. There has been allegations against me and the State has not been able to put up the case. I have not been found guilty in a court of law,” he said.

Zuma was responding to questions from the media at the Hilton Hotel in Durban on why he did not go to court to have his name cleared.

Zuma also stressed that he was not above the law.

”I do not regard myself as being above the law and no public person should be above scrutiny,” he said.

”In the last eight years, I did not use my position to interfere with the due course of the law … and I always presented myself in court whenever needed.

The ruling party president conceded he had received a loan from convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik but declined to elaborate, saying it was contained in his representation to the NPA.

He did, however, say that he had re-paid part of the loan.

Zuma began the briefing on a light-hearted note, joking with journalists about ”converting” them to vote for the ANC.

The jovial mood quickly dissipated as Zuma got down to business, highlighting the ordeal he and his family had been subjected to during the time the charges hung over him.

But the party president said he did not hold any grudges.

”I have come across such things in the past, I believe that if people know that what they have done has become known they will desist from doing so in the future.”

He thanked those who supported and believed in his innocence.

Charges dropped
Earlier the High Court in Durban endorsed a decision taken by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to drop the 16 charges against the presidential frontrunner, who was seen smiling as the decision was confirmed.

Zuma’s daughter Duduzile, wearing a bright yellow jacket, was inside court videotaping her father’s big moment.

Judge president Vuka Tshabalala said all charges against the three accused were withdrawn.

This included charges against two Thint companies, who were the co-accused.

The charges had related to allegations of bribery between the arms company and Zuma.

Tshabalala said when charges are withdrawn they could be reinstated again, however, he stressed that it was unlikely.

He spoke briefly on the publicity surrounding the case and stressed that all proper procedure had been followed.

After the judge’s pronouncement that Zuma was officially free from the eight-year legal burden, his supporters in court burst into applause.

The formality followed the announcement by the NPA’s acting head, Mokotedi Mpshe on Monday that the 16 charges would be dropped due to the alleged abuse of process by the former head of the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), Leonard McCarthy.

Mpshe was quick to point out that dropping the corruption charges did not amount to Zuma’s acquittal.

His decision was not based on the actual merits of the case.

”It does not amount to an acquittal … Mr McCarthy’s conduct offends one’s sense of justice. It would be unfair as well as unjust to continue with the prosecution,” Mpshe said at a press briefing.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Monday said there were ”good reasons” why the Zuma prosecution had to end: ”Comrade Zuma has suffered undue prejudicial delay which renders a fair trial impossible.”

Election boost
The move to drop the charges gives Zuma a big boost ahead of the election and ends a legal battle that raised doubts over his ability to govern, but analysts and the opposition say suspicion will continue to dog him because the case was never settled in court.

Zuma, whose ANC party ousted Mbeki as president last year, said he would not seek revenge against his political enemies but would concentrate on tackling issues such as poverty, crime and HIV/Aids.

”Retribution will not take us anywhere,” he said. ”Now is the time for us to focus on improving people’s lives.”

Zuma said the case showed state institutions such as Parliament needed to be strengthened to avoid abuse of power.

”Something clearly needs to be done to make them more effective in their oversight roles,” he said.

Zille files application for review
Meanwhile, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille filed an urgent application to the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday requesting a review of the NPA’s decision to drop charges against Zuma.

After spending about 40 minutes inside the court, Zille, dressed all in black, spoke to the media at 10am.

She said the decision announced by Mpshe was unlawful and irrational.

”It violated the Constitution, it violated the law and it violated the [National Directorate of Public Prosecution’s] own policy.

”It is an irrational decision, it is an unlawful decision and the reasons given do not hold water because they do not address the question of the merits of the case against Jacob Zuma.” — Sapa, Reuters

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