Activist lawyer Paul Hoffman this week addressed an open letter to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe in which he requested the NEC convene a meeting and recall President Jacob Zuma.
Under the heading “RE: Criminal activities on the part of President Jacob Zuma during May/June 2015”, Hoffman, writing in his position as a director of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa (IFAISA), said, since his re-election Zuma had become “ever more conflicted and compromised”.
Hoffman said it was “intolerable” to South Africa’s constitutional order that Zuma had, in the space of a few days, made “himself guilty of the corrupt activity involved in his agreement with Mr Nxasana and then defeat the ends of justice by acting in complete disregard of an order of court by which he is bound in relation to the secretive departure of al-Bashir from the country”.
In the first instance, Hoffman was referring to an agreement reached between Zuma and the then head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Mxolisi Nxasana, which led to him agreeing to resign in return for a reported R17.3-million.
The second instance involved Zuma arranging for the safe passage of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to Khartoum from South Africa after his appearance at an AU summit earlier in June. Allowing Bashir to leave the country, said Hoffman, was in breach of a court order.
Hoffman said the negotiation of the agreement with Nxasana was a clear contravention of section 9 of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act, and was accordingly a criminal offence. He wrote that the “spiriting away” of Omar Al-Bashir in contempt of a high court order amounted to defeating the ends of justice, and was also a criminal offence.
He said if Zuma was not recalled by the ANC “on or before 10 July 2015 and otherwise dealt with appropriately by the ANC as a law-abiding political organisation, we will be left with no alternative but to lay criminal charges against him with the SAPS ourselves”.
Hoffman said they would then call upon the Asset Forfeiture Unit to seach and seize the funds paid to Nxasana as the “proceeds of crime”.
He said should the NPA decline to prosecute Zuma, they would seek to obtain a certificate declaring as much from the relevant director of public prosecutions and mount a private prosecution against Zuma.
Mantashe told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday that the way the open letter had been handled “shows it was not meant for me”.
“When people write to me I take it as correspondence between two institutions. How can you address a letter to me but send an open letter but expect correspondence?
“If they want to lay a criminal charge they can go ahead and do it. It is their decision and it doesn’t have anything to do with me. It is their business, they can do what they want to do,” said Mantashe.
Advocate Chris Shone, another IFAISA director, said it was Mantashe’s decision whether to acknowledge the open letter or not.
“We have given the letter. It is the content and substance of the letter that is the concern.”
Shone said there were two fundamental issues that needed to be addressed.
“We have an NPA [boss] who has inexplicably resigned and paid a lot of money. Al-Bashir was allowed to leave. No reason has been given on why he [Nxasana] resigned. He had a 10-year contract and he is in good health. We don’t know why he resigned the only thing we know is he was paid. He has a clean bill of health. As the matter stands we have no explanation.”
Tinyiko Maluleke, political analyst and professor in African and global politics at the University of Pretoria, told the M&G that IFAISA’s demands of accountability were not followed with the same zeal and sense of vigilance with other parties or the private sector.
“They will be seen as just wanting to prove that the ANC government and Zuma are incompetent and this will be placed along the lines that he is black,” said Maluleke.
“South African politics are racially polarised and an organisation such as this will not find it easy to convince the ANC or society that Zuma needs to be recalled.”
Maluleke said the fact that it was an open letter showed IFAISA did not want to engage the ANC, “but rather wants to share their ideas with people who already share the sentiment that South Africa is a failed state because the ANC-led government has failed”.
Maluleke said Zuma could not be charged in his personal capacity or as leader of the ANC, but only in his capacity as president.