THE one thing Jacob Zuma learnt from his time as an accused person was that the most powerful state institution is not the military or any of the intelligence agencies. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), like the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States under Edgar Hoover, can be used as a political weapon. In the right hands, it can uphold the scales of justice; in hands which can be manipulated for political purposes, it can unleash state power against any perceived enemy.
Report by Daily Maverick
Zuma firmly believed that he was a victim of abuse by state institutions, particularly the NPA, which identified him as being party to corruption in 2002 and then pursued him through the media for three years before charging him in 2005. He was hauled before the courts several times in a stop-start case which dragged on for four years.
Although Zuma never denied accepting money from his former financial advisor Schabir Shaik, his legal defence was primarily built on the basis of the political conspiracy that state institutions had pursued him for political purposes. The political power battle between Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki created the framework for the legal battle, and the extensive support campaign which was mounted around Zuma’s defence had sufficient ammunition to float the conspiracy theory.
In the end, that is what resulted in the NPA withdrawing the case against him. The merits of the case were not a factor, because they never went far enough to be tested before the courts. The case was withdrawn based on representations made to the NPA, which included the controversial “spy tapes” with recordings of alleged conversations between individuals plotting the prosecution of Zuma.
The representations also included submissions by the ANC and SA Communist Party, also explaining how the prosecution of Zuma had been compromised due to political conspiracy against him, and warning that continuing the case would bring mass protest action and instability to the country.
The acting national director of public prosecutions at the time, Mokotedi Mpshe, capitulated to the political pressure, which was formidable at the time, just a month before the 2009 general elections, in which Zuma was at the top of the ANC’s ticket. It marked the end of a clumsy case, which started messily and hurtled from “one disaster to another”, to quote one of the presiding judges, Herbert Msimang.
The reason for this clumsiness was not a lack of evidence — there were truckloads of documents from the Shaik and Zuma cases — but rather that there were clearly external forces impacting on the case which caused “abnormalities” in the prosecution. The ability to show the interference of those external forces was enough to finally get the NPA off Zuma’s back forever.
A bizarre twist of fate will now see expelled ANC youth league (ANCYL) ex-leader Julius Malema walk a similar path as Zuma, his former hero-turned-nemesis. The charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering will, in all likelihood, trap him in the justice system for several years during which time he will allege that he is being pursued for political purposes and that he is the victim of abuse of state power.
But just like the Zuma case, the prosecution is making errors and there are already signs that they are acting under pressure. Few people, even those who loathe Malema, would believe that the Hawks coincidentally finalised their long-running investigation against him at the very time when he became perceived as a serious threat to the state and Zuma’s campaign for re-election in the ANC.
By charging Malema now, a week before the nominations process in the ANC begins, which he was bound to try and influence, it feeds into perceptions that state institutions have been instructed to gun for him and compromise his ability to continue his campaign against Zuma. The Hawks and NPA will now always have to fend off that allegation as they pursue the case.
A further blunder by the state was the drama last week when police prevented Malema from addressing mineworkers at the Wonderkop stadium in Marikana and escorted him all the way back to Johannesburg. The state, through the police, demonstrated that they were rattled by Malema’s continued relationship with that community.
He was the first high-profile political leader to meet with the mineworkers after the August 16 massacre, and embarrassed several cabinet ministers at the memorial service the following week when he put the blame for the deaths squarely on Zuma and his government. Malema’s forced removal was an obvious violation of his constitutional rights to free assembly and free speech, and the government and police have yet to provide an explanation as to why they took such action.
The reaction of Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and other security ministers to a meeting Malema had with a small group of suspended soldiers earlier this month, when they placed all military bases around the country on high alert, also shows a level of irrationality and compromised judgment when dealing with Malema.
Although the draft indictment against Malema shows a web of corrupt dealings defrauding the state of millions, this will be immaterial to Malema’s supporters who plan to mount a similar public support campaign to that of Zuma’s. They will use the timing of the charges as well as the events building up to the decision to allege that the case against Malema has political motives.
Malema was on Wednesday charged with money laundering in a court case which his supporters say is part of a political plot to silence the fierce critic of President Jacob Zuma.
He was granted bail of R10 000 by the Polokwane Regional Court and will be back in court on November 30.
Ex-ANCYL leader saga so famous it has its own website
JULIUS Malema’s legal team is expected to set up a dedicated website to deal with queries about the expelled ANC Youth League leader’s court case.
In a press statement released earlier this week, Brian Kahn Inc said that over the past few days it had received hundreds of text, e-mails and telephone queries from journalists, and that it was simply not possible to respond to each of these in a meaningful way.
“It would be unrealistic to disregard the media in what may well be a lengthy process in which the media, quite legitimately, has an intense interest. As a result thereof, and in an effort to balance competing demands and interests, this firm will set up a dedicated website in which we will, as and when we consider it appropriate, publish reports for the benefit of the media (primarily) and anyone else who wishes to access the website.”
The law firm will also set up a dedicated e-mail address for media enquiries concerning the case.
Malema, who has in the past shown disdain for the media in general and the internet in particular, has in recent months taken steps to reclaim his online reputation.
In 2010, Malema threatened to shut down Twitter, but earlier this month he reclaimed his Twitter handle, @Julius_S_Malema, and began posting to the social media platform. As at September 25, Malema had 225 122 followers.
The move appears to be an attempt by Malema to have a say in how he is represented in the media.
Sam Beckbessinger, strategic planner at e-marketing company Quirk, said reclaiming his Twitter account gives Malema the opportunity to talk back.
“It makes the conversation two-way. It gives him his own voice,” Beckbessinger said.
In the first post on the website, juliusmalema.co.za, he describes the site as a place to “get my responses to lies published by the media and journalists who want to sell papers and score points” and “a platform for us to engage in discussions and for the public to see into me”. “No spin doctoring or reprimands from some outgoing goatee bearded SG (secretary-general),” he says.