The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has moved to prevent Ramaphosa-bashing at former president Jacob Zuma’s court appearance on Friday by taking Black First Land First (BLF) and other groups off the official programme for supporters outside the high court in Pietermaritzburg.
The ANC has “requested” organisers to keep the BLF and other groupings that have been supporting Zuma at court from using the platform to tear into the ANC and President Cyril Ramaphosa, as has been the case in earlier appearances.
Conscious of the impending national and provincial elections, the ANC in the province wants to halt any potential backlash from Zuma’s supporters at the polls next May and to stop electoral opponents from using the court appearances to punt their own campaigns.
ANC MPL Bishop Vusi Dube of the National Interfaith Council of South Africa — which is hosting the night vigil ahead of Zuma’s appearance, an on-day march and a programme during and afterward — said he would ensure that the events outside the court were not used by other parties for “bashing the ANC and the president”.
Dube, who expects ANC secretary general Ace Magashule to attend the case along with the party’s KwaZulu-Natal leaders, said the BLF and other groups had been excluded from preparations.
“They will be there but not in terms of the programme. They will not be there as speakers,” Dube said. “In the past obviously we have had some people getting on to the platform and starting to bash the ANC. We are going to make sure that doesn’t happen and divide us as an organisation.”
Zuma has spent the past two weeks campaigning for the ANC ahead of Ramaphosa’s January 8 address in Durban, at which the party’s manifesto for the May poll will be unveiled.
“The former president himself has said clearly that he supports the ANC and is on the campaign trail for the ANC, to show support for the sitting president,” Dube said.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the province’s leaders had approached Dube after previous Zuma appearances at the Durban and Pietermaritzburg high courts had been used to attack the ANC and Ramaphosa.
She said Zuma’s campaigning had put to rest speculation that he would be backing a new party, or any party except the ANC, come the elections.
The ANC in the province has been battling to deal with events at the court appearances, which members have attended in their “personal capacities” in line with a ruling issued by its national executive committee after the corruption and racketeering charges against Zuma were reinstated earlier this year. They have included the former president in election campaign activities to try to placate supporters angered by the party’s decision to recall him.
Friday’s court appearance is likely to be brief. KwaZulu-Natal deputy judge president Mjabuliseni Madondo will set a date for argument of an application for a permanent stay of prosecution filed by Zuma’s legal team two weeks ago. It is understood that the permanent stay application will probably be heard on May 20.
Zuma wants the court to stay his prosecution on several grounds, including prosecutorial misconduct, political interference in the case, undue delays and public prejudice he has suffered in the 17 years since he was first charged. Alternatively, Zuma wants the court to order the prosecution to provide him with a series of documents he claims it has withheld from him, which are central to his defence, and to allow him to make a second founding affidavit.
Zuma claims that his prosecution on corruption charges related to the arms deal and payments from his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was politically motivated and intended to prevent him from becoming president of the ANC and the country.
He also claims that the passage of time, compounded by malfeasance and interference in the prosecution, has made it impossible to have a fair and speedy trial.
In papers before the court, Zuma said his case had been plagued by “serious pre-trial irregularities, partisan prosecutorial conduct, public prejudice, undue delay and interference with prosecutorial functions”.
“The main feature of my prosecution has been the improper influence in the prosecution and undue delay, as well as the most glaring and blatant prosecutorial bias.”
Zuma said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had, since the inception of the charges, been part of a “well-calculated strategy of trying me in the court of public opinion”, which had caused him “irreparable public prejudice”. In the process, the prosecution had “pursued me overzealously and with no regard for professional boundaries”, abusing the system to “terrorise me”.
Zuma said he should never have been charged. The decision to charge him for the arms deal when he was “nowhere near the process” was based on “political considerations”.
“Since I was charged I have become a scapegoat for those who themselves seek to engage in sophisticated looting of the state resources while they lull society into believing that they act in its interests,” he said.
Zuma said, despite this, people still believed in his innocence.
“In spite of all this persecution, there is still a large and irrepressible section of the South African population that is not fooled by this and still regards me as their leader.”
Zuma said the NPA had refused to give him access to information necessary for him to compose his application and to stage his defence.
These included the Browse Mole report, the financial records “relating to the payment” of his rape accuser, Fezekile Khuzwayo, and a breakdown of the costs of his prosecution and the accounting records for it.
The Business Day newspaper previously reported that the prosecutor at Zuma’s rape trial, Charin de Beer, denied any undue payments to Khuzwayo.
Zuma also questioned why the NPA had decided not to charge him along with Shaik, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail, for “no apparent reason”. This was, he said, a “sinister move designed to prejudice me by having a dry run of my prosecution by trying Shaik alone and before charging me”.
Zuma said there had been no direct payment to him from his co-accused, French arms manufacturer Thint (formerly Thales), which has also applied for a permanent stay of prosecution.
“The machinations and paying of benefits to me were all the doing of Shaik,” Zuma said, adding that Shaik would “once again not be there to be asked questions from my perspective”.
Zuma said Alain Thetard, the former Thint chief executive who allegedly authorised a R1-million bribe for Zuma in an encrypted fax, was dead and could not be questioned.
“Thetard is now deceased and cannot assist the prosecution and me to explain the fax once and for all. This prejudice is indeed insurmountable and grotesque.”