Zuma trial is the ANC trial
The reinstatement of the charges against the former president are a gift to the opposition, writes Molebatsi Masedi
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.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma.