Editorial: The detangling of Zuma

Jacob Zuma. (Gallo)

Jacob Zuma. (Gallo)

From the day the then national director of prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, let on that there was a "prima facie case" of fraud and corruption against him, Jacob Zuma demanded his day in court. Yet, as soon as it seemed that day might dawn, Zuma changed tack and did everything in his power to avoid going to court.

Notoriously, the more than 700 charges against Zuma were dropped by the National Prosecuting Authority on the eve of the 2009 election. That decision was always questionable and contestable, taken as it was without a proper legal rationale from anyone actually prosecuting the serious charges.

It was indeed the "political solution" that was desired, not a legal solution - a fact Zuma has played down. A legal solution is a judgment of guilt or innocence. Part of his claim in his own defence was that there was a political conspiracy against him, and the "spy tapes" were used to prove that.

Former president Thabo Mbeki was blamed for manipulating state institutions for personal political ends yet, since the charges against him were dropped, Zuma has outdone his predecessor in the manipulation or, failing that, the undermining of state institutions. Is it all because he's still trying to avoid that day in court he said he so badly wanted?

It took a court case to get the responsible parties to hand over the "spy tapes", though they are still resisting despite the decisions of that court. This isn't even the president exercising his legal rights any more; it borders very close to giving taxpayers the middle finger.

As we show this week, the tapes are part of a situation in which one legal dodge led to another, and everyone ended up compromised. They show the depth and complication of the legal tangle in which the president finds himself, to the detriment of the whole country. And, because he is president, this legal tangle is a political tangle too - one we desperately need to undo.

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