Former president Thabo Mbeki on Thursday issued an unusually mild statement rejecting allegations by Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Willie Hofmeyr that his administration had abused its power to plot the downfall of then deputy president Jacob Zuma.
Hofmeyr claimed in an affidavit – filed in defence of the 2009 decision by the National Prosecuting Authority to discontinue the corruption case against Zuma – that former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka, along with former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, were part of a broader collective of Mbeki supporters who viewed the NPA as a tool with which to fight Mbeki’s political battles.
Hofmeyr’s affidavit is in response to the Democratic Alliance’s legal battle to have corruption and fraud charges against Zuma reinstated. The charges against Zuma were withdrawn controversially by former acting national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe on the eve of the 2009 elections after listening to the spy tapes, which he said revealed enough proof of a political conspiracy against Zuma.
In his affidavit, Hofmeyr alleges that McCarthy manipulated the timing of the institution of the prosecution against Zuma for political reasons. “He did so because he and others close to Mbeki and opposed to Zuma believed that delaying the prosecution would harm Zuma’s attempts to compete against Mbeki for the position of ANC president [in 2007].”
‘Nothing to add or subtract’
Mbeki did not appear to be in a fighting mood on Thursday, unlike during his previous scathing response to Judge Willem Heath, who made similar allegations against him in an interview with City Press in 2011. Responding to Heath then, Mbeki went so far as threatening to sue the judge for defamation of character. Heath was forced to resign from his position as Special Investigating Unit head, 17 days after Zuma appointed him to the position.
In a one-page statement on Thursday, Mbeki said: “After careful study of the [Hofmeyr] affidavit, I have come to the firm conclusion that it contains absolutely no evidence to back the claim that either the alleged role players or I sought to interfere or interfered in the work of the NPA. Those who have followed this matter will recall that essentially the same allegations were canvassed before Judge Chris Nicholson in the Pietermaritzburg high court in 2008.
“Though Judge Nicholson was persuaded by the allegations, the Supreme Court of Appeal [SCA] unanimously dismissed his judgment and said, amongst other things, that it was ‘incomprehensible’. I have therefore determined that there is nothing to add or to subtract from the SCA judgement,” said Mbeki.
Quoting the statement he made subsequent to the SCA judgement in 2009, Mbeki said: “It seems to me that the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives is becoming entrenched in our society. I also call on all of us as leaders and citizens critically to reflect on this practice in order to avoid the entrenchment of a culture which may eventually corrupt our society. My views and concerns regarding this practice and its consequences have not changed,” said Mbeki.
He then quoted Mahatma Gandhi in what appeared to be an indirect attack on Hofmeyr.
“At another period in history, Mahatma Gandhi sought to address this and other concerns when he spoke of Seven Social Sins, these being wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without principle.”
Mbeki said he hoped and prayed that one day, hopefully soon, the country would reflect on this and other issues with the obligatory depth and seriousness, bearing in mind that a society without a moral proposition was destined for nowhere.