'We put the iron in all fires'

ANC national working committee member Lindiwe Sisulu led an ANC task team on Zuma’s legal affairs. Rapule Tabane spoke to her

Is this a clean victory?
I’ve come to the determination that how the judiciary works is not easy maths—like one plus one equals two. It’s a combination of principles of law and interpretation.
When you look at the totality of factors involved, it is a clean victory. Our strategy was to put the iron in all of the fires. We allowed the process of making representations to the NPA to continue. We were appealing against the Supreme Court of Appeal decision overturning Nicholson’s judgment.

We’d also joined as amicus curiae to the Constitutional Court in challenging their interpretation of section 179 (5) (d) of the Constitution, because we felt it was wrong. We were also going to the Pietermaritzburg High Court to ask for a stay of prosecution because the more we looked at the case the more convinced we became that there was something wrong with it. The NPA really had no case. We’d studied the case in detail and were sure that wherever we went we would argue gross violations of Jacob Zuma’s rights.

Wasn’t the case won on a technicality?
No - the truth is indivisible. The NPA had to get the point across that although their process was flawed they at least had a solid case. You cannot expect them to just commit suicide and say we didn’t have a strong case as well. The head of the NPA said they were misled. You have to wonder where else they were misled.

You ought to remember that the NPA insisted they had a solid case even before they could listen to Zuma’s representations. But we were convinced that the case itself couldn’t stand up in a court of law. The whole process of administration is one [reason it couldn’t]. Our legal team showed interference—you can’t have this division that they were right on the one point and wrong on the other.

This is not an acquittal. Aren’t future charges possible?
This matter is over. Finish and klaar.

What about a private prosecution?
Once this decision to withdraw charges has been confirmed by the court, how can anyone challenge the decision? On what basis would this not amount to an acquittal? If the NPA were contemplating the possibility of coming back with a case in the future, they would have asked for it to be stayed for a while as they did before Judge Herbert Msimang in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. If this is not an acquittal, then I will have to revisit my bush law degree.

The DA has talked about private prosecution and has taken Mpshe’s decision on review.
The DA has to put up some kind of bravado even if they’ve lost. On what basis can they take up this case? All the information on this case is already out there, it’s tainted.

All this has taken place because of ANC infighting.
The tragedy for the ANC is that when this thing blew up in our faces all we had was conjecture—but now we have the hard facts.

Going forward we have to introduce measures to see how we handle matters differently. But this will be a subject of discussion, as it has been a test for integrity and fairness.

As the ANC we remain scarred by this experience. It has taken its toll because when you say ANC, immediately the word corruption comes up in the minds of our people.

Vusi Pikoli reacts with shock and surprise

In 2005 he charged Jacob Zuma with corruption and fraud. This week sacked prosecutions boss Vusi Pikoli was confronted with tape recordings implicating his former right-hand man in political meddling. Pearlie Joubert and Adriaan Basson questioned him through his lawyer, Aslam Moosajee.

What do you think of the tapes?
Certainly if these tapes are authentic and they occurred as reported, they’re very inappropriate. Leonard McCarthy [the former Scorpions boss] had no right to discuss those issues with anybody. I’m very shocked and very surprised.

How severely has the NPA been damaged by these tapes?
If these allegations [of meddling] are true, then clearly McCarthy acted inappropriately and clearly it will have a major impact on the integrity of the NPA.

On Tuesday Zuma said you charged him for “political and manipulative” reasons. Did you?
I absolutely deny this. It’s clear from the Ginwala inquiry that I resisted any political interference and the reality is that the decision to charge Zuma was made after the judgment in the Schabir Shaik case was handed down.

What do you think of Mokotedi Mpshe’s decision to drop the charges?
I haven’t been privy to all Zuma’s representations so I can’t definitively say what my attitude would’ve been. But if the sole basis for the withdrawal of charges is the discussions between [Bulelani] Ngcuka and McCarthy, I would’ve referred the matter for further investigation and possible prosecution, and wouldn’t have simply withdrawn it on that basis. Instead, the allegations should have been put before a court of law for the court to decide whether it was an appropriate basis for the withdrawal of charges.

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane is the Mail & Guardian's politics editor. He sometimes worries that he is a sports fanatic, but is in fact just crazy about Orlando Pirates. While he used to love reading only fiction, he is now gradually starting to enjoy political biographies. He was a big fan of Barack Obama, but now accepts that even he is only mortal. Read more from Rapule Tabane

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