NPA dropped the ball, painted Zuma into tight corner
The Times Editorial: Sanity finally prevailed when the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) provisionally withdrew murder charges against Lonmin miners yesterday. The decision came after days of public anger and statements by politicians following a decision to charge 270 strikers with murder following the Marikana massacre.
What angered the public was the use of the "common purpose doctrine" a law that was used by the apartheid government to prosecute ANC leaders.
Though the NPA has all the powers to apply and execute our laws without fear or favour, the decision to charge the arrested miners with murder proved a bad one. For many, the scars of the past are still fresh so they saw the NPA's decision as the use of an apartheid law against poor workers.
Though President Jacob Zuma did well not to accede to a demand by lawyers representing the miners to release them, the NPA's decision to change tack yesterday will weaken him at a political level. Those seeking Zuma's removal as leader of the ANC will point out that it was under his watch that an apartheid law was used against "poor" workers.
Expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has already started to poke holes in Zuma's armour using whatever information (true or not) he has at his disposal.
Perceptions can either build or destroy you. Zuma appoints the head of the NPA and any decision taken is linked to his leadership.
The NPA's independence would never have been questioned had its leaders not waited for politicians (and those seeking to further their political careers) to take to the stage and ridicule its decision.
Waiting until there was a public outcry gave rise to perceptions that political pressure had played a role in the decision to suddenly withdraw (provisionally) the murder charges against the miners.
Maybe it's time to review how we choose an NPA boss so as to avoid bad perceptions.