People of SA ‘blinded by hatred’ of Zuma
Zuma’s defence suggests the belief that he’s ‘scum’ keeps people from seeing the ‘egregious’ way he has been treated
Former president Jacob Zuma’s advocate has argued South Africans have been too “blinded by hatred” for him to understand just how deeply his rights have been compromised by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane repeatedly suggested the belief that Zuma was “scum” had prevented many people from acknowledging the “egregious” way he had been treated, which Zuma himself maintains is the worst violation of rights experienced in democratic SA.
Zuma had been deeply “dehumanised” and stigmatised by the way the NPA had pursued its case against him, which had left him “synonymous with corruption”, said Sikhakhane.
Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati then asked when Zuma’s name would ever rid itself of the stigma, “because he has said he wants his day in court”.
Sikhakhane responded: “Your order condemning the unconstitutional conduct towards him will go some way towards curing the stigma.”
“While Zuma will have scars [from the stigma], the respect of the Constitution would be upheld,” he said.
Sikhakhane had earlier argued: “Violations of the Constitution, even in pursuit of the ugliest criminal we hate, cannot be condoned.”
The advocate was responding to questions from Judge Bhekisisa Mnguni, who pointed out that, although former NPA head Mokotedi Mpshe chose to withdraw charges against Zuma because of political meddling in the timing of when he was charged, there was no proof that the evidence against Zuma had been interfered with.
The state maintains it has a “very strong case” against Zuma, and has slammed his application for a permanent stay of the case against him as yet another attempt to avoid ever facing trial.
The former president’s lawyers have argued it is irrelevant whether he is guilty of the racketeering, corruption, fraud and tax evasion charges against him, but say the high court needs to interrogate whether, given the NPA’s “egregious” conduct and the “unreasonable delay” in Zuma’s prosecution, he can still receive a fair trial.
Crucial to their case is their argument that Zuma should have been charged with his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who was convicted of corrupting him in 2005.
According to Sikhakhane, the outcome of Shaik’s trial may have been different if Zuma had been able to cross-examine him as his co-accused.
“The effect … was that he [Zuma] was tried in his absence.”
Sikhakhane read whole chunks of the so-called Spy Tapes recording transcripts, in which former Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy was recorded swearing at two Appeal Court judges who ruled against the state in Zuma’s challenge to the legality of the Scorpions’ raids on him and his lawyers.
He used these excerpts to argue that McCarthy and former prosecutions head Bulelani Ngcuka – who, Zuma’s lawyers contend, maliciously chose not to put him on trial with Shaik – conflated their political objective of supporting former president Thabo Mbeki with key decisions about how the case against Zuma should proceed.
Zuma’s advocate, Thabani Masuku, has further argued that the evidence given by newly appointed Asset Forfeiture Unit head Willie Hofmeyr in support of the NPA’s 2009 decision to drop the case against Zuma – in which he argued there was a political motive to the prosecution – proved that the state had been responsible for “constitutional violations”.
“They stabbed constitutional process in the heart.”
Hofmeyr recently told the Mokgoro inquiry, interrogating ousted NPA heads Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi’s fitness to hold office, that he had “overreacted” to the Spy Tapes. His evidence was further condemned by the Supreme Court of Appeal, which said he and Mpshe appeared to be “straining to find justification” for discontinuing the Zuma prosecution.