Zuma trial is the ANC trial

The re­in­state­ment of the charges against the for­mer pres­i­dent are a gift to the op­po­si­tion, writes Mole­batsi Masedi

African Times - - Front Page - Mole­batsi Masedi is a Polok­wane, Lim­popo based pro­po­nent of rad­i­cal so­cioe­co­nomic trans­for­ma­tion. Tweeter: @Mole­bat­siMasedi

ON FRI­DAY the Na­tional Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions Shaun Abra­hams made the muchawaited an­nounce­ment that charges against the for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma will be re­in­stated. The mo­ment of truth had ar­rived for Zuma to have his day in court to prove his in­no­cence against the litany of al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion, money laun­der­ing and rack­e­teer­ing.

The re­in­state­ment of the charges has been pend­ing since their with­drawal by the then NDPP, Mokotedi Mp­she, al­most a decade ago. The mat­ter of the charges could have dis­ap­peared if it were not of the op­po­si­tion par­ties keep­ing it alive over all these years.

Today the op­po­si­tion par­ties are hav­ing the last laugh at the ex­pense of the Zuma and the ANC. The re­in­state­ment of the charges against Zuma are a gift to the limp­ing op­po­si­tion that had run out of ideas of un­seat­ing the rul­ing party.

From its 54th na­tional con­fer­ence, the ANC emerged stronger and united. With Cyril Ramaphosa as pres­i­dent of the party and coun­try, the op­po­si­tion par­ties had very lit­tle space to ma­noeu­vre. Their whip­ping boy Zuma was off the cen­tre stage of South African pol­i­tics. For the first in the past nine years the op­po­si­tion had to sweat for rel­e­vance with the elec­torate.

The re­ju­ve­nated ANC un­der the Ramaphosa and his unity team was mak­ing mince of the op­po­si­tion to a point their al­liance of con­ve­nience was seen dis­in­te­grat­ing. In un­der a year their prospects of win­ning a prov­ince or two in 2019 dis­ap­peared into thin air. The op­po­si­tion was lost un­til the Abra­hams an­nounce­ment that charges against Zuma would soon be re­in­stated and the wheels of jus­tice will start grind­ing. With the charges re­in­stated, the op­po­si­tion have been ex­tended a lifeline they’ll milk to the max­i­mum ben­e­fit.

In its re­sponse to the re­in­state­ment of the charges, the ANC was non-com­mit­tal, safe to say Zuma is in­no­cent un­til proven oth­er­wise and the NPA be given space to deal and fi­nalise the mat­ter.

Giv­ing space to the NPA means not in­ter­fer­ing with the court pro­ceed­ings when the mat­ter comes up for hear­ing. The state­ment doesn’t say whether the ANC is sup­port­ing or not sup­port­ing its for­mer pres­i­dent.

Non-com­mit­tal as the party may be, a prece­dence was set in Zuma’s pre­vi­ous le­gal woes. In his cor­rup­tion and rape tri­als, the party and its al­lies came out guns blaz­ing in his sup­port. For then COSATU gen­eral sec­re­tary, Zwelinz­ima Vavi, Zuma was un­stop­pable. Julius Malema, then ANCYL fire­brand pres­i­dent, de­clared that they would kill for their man.

Today the sit­u­a­tion is re­mark­ably dif­fer­ent. Zuma’s sup­port is much shrunk and most of his orig­i­nal sup­port­ers have turned against him. Some even want him in prison. They are rub­bing their hands in glee as they look for­ward to the trial to start.

The ANC finds it­self in an in­vid­i­ous sit­u­a­tion a year ahead of a gen­eral elec­tion. It can’t dump Zuma as it isn’t in keep­ing with its rev­o­lu­tion­ary char­ac­ter to aban­don one of its own or throw him to the wolves. At an­other level the party is cast­ing it­self as be­ing against cor­rup­tion, ir­re­spec­tive of who is do­ing it.

When Zuma goes to court it will very much be the ANC go­ing to court. He is no or­di­nary cit­i­zen or mem­ber of the ANC. He is the most im­me­di­ate pres­i­dent of the party and govern­ment. Four months ago he was in of­fice. In fact, at least ac­cord­ing to party sec­re­tary gen­eral Ace Ma­gashule, he was then des­tined to de­liver the 2018 State of the Na­tion Ad­dress. There were also no doubts he would see his term to the end and present his suc­ces­sor, Ramaphosa to the BRICS and SADC lead­ers on his dig­ni­fied way out of of­fice.

Ahead of his in­dict­ment, Zuma is draw­ing crowds for the ANC elec­tion cam­paign in his prov­ince of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Ear­lier he sat through­out the party na­tional elec­tion work­shop, much un­like other for­mer pres­i­dents. Now that he will have charges against him re­in­stated, will he be re­called from do­ing party elec­tion work as some are de­mand­ing or will it be busi­ness as usual.

Of all struc­tures of the ANC, only the MKVA has come out in his clear sup­port and say­ing he was un­likely to have a fair trial in South Africa. The Women and Youth Leagues have been in­ex­pli­ca­bly quite on the mat­ter. Only the Kwa-Zulu Natal pro­vin­cial struc­tures of the ANC Women and Youth Leagues have de­clared that they stand be­hind him.

De­prived of am­mu­ni­tion against the ANC, op­po­si­tion par­ties will put the party on trial with Zuma by cast­ing it as equally cor­rupt as they have been al­leg­ing against the for­mer pres­i­dent. They will ex­tract as much mileage as they can from the trial and its im­pli­ca­tions for the ANC.

Soon as the trial starts the ANC will be called by the force of cir­cum­stances to come out clear on its stance on its for­mer pres­i­dent and pres­i­dent of the coun­try. The party is faced with the un­en­vi­able task to fend off the op­po­si­tion and mem­bers who will take to the streets in sup­port of Zuma.

Tak­ing the cue from the past, Zuma sup­port­ers will go on a pub­lic dis­play of their sol­i­dar­ity with him. In the past, towns where the tri­als were con­ducted were dis­rupted as thou­sands were bussed to sup­port him. It re­mains to be seen how much rep­u­ta­tional dam­age will be in­flicted on the party. How the party fares in the 2019 elec­tions hinges to a greater ex­tend on how it deals with the Zuma mat­ter.

The de­lay of the res­o­lu­tion of the mat­ter has seen it grow pro­por­tion­ally as the ANC po­lit­i­cal for­tunes re­ceded. It lost three met­ros as it con­tin­ued to bleed elec­toral sup­port. The de­layed res­o­lu­tion of the Zuma le­gal prob­lems have now re­turned to haunt the party.

This is hap­pen­ing when the or­gan­i­sa­tion had con­cluded a suc­cess­ful con­fer­ence from which it emerged strong and united. It now has an­other moun­tain to climb.

Dire as the sit­u­a­tion is for the ANC, it equally presents the opportunity to cleanse it­self and be re­turned it its found­ing val­ues of up­right lead­er­ship that’s be­yond re­proach. It is sad though, that it had to come to this low point be­fore it rises again.

Pic­ture: Vis­ual Buzz SA

For­mer South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

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