Zuma - Is immunity from prosecution an option?

08 February 2018 - 17:19 By Ernest Mabuza
President Jacob Zuma. File photo.
President Jacob Zuma. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

As President Jacob Zuma is rumoured to be on the verge of resigning as president of the country‚ questions remain about whether a deal could be reached where he could be immune from prosecution on corruption charges.

Zuma is facing a prospect of defending himself against 18 counts‚ including charges of fraud‚ corruption‚ money laundering and racketeering.

These are related to payments he allegedly received from his former financial advisor‚ Schabir Shaik‚ more than 15 years ago.

Highly placed sources told TimesLIVE on Tuesday that Zuma had agreed to quit‚ but his resignation would be tied to a list of preconditions.

The Democratic Alliance said it was “not a stretch” to say that the heart of these negotiations between Deputy President and ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and Zuma centred around granting Zuma immunity from prosecution.

Ramaphosa told the party's MPs on Thursday that he was not negotiating any deal to protect Zuma from prosecution over corruption.

This is according to ANC MPs who attended the ANC caucus meeting on Thursday where Ramaphosa briefed them on his ongoing transition talks with Zuma.

The ANC MPs‚ who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to speak to the media on caucus discussions‚ said Ramaphosa told them he was not discussing granting Zuma immunity from prosecution with Zuma because he simply had no authority to do so.

Constitutional law expert Prof Shadrack Gutto said granting Zuma immunity from prosecution was not possible.

“Irrespective of the arrangement Zuma might reach with the ANC‚ the criminal justice system does not allow for political arrangements that could shield Zuma from answering to any crime that he is suspected to have committed‚” Gutto said.

He said the National Prosecuting Authority has the power to institute criminal proceedings on behalf of the state and it exercised its functions without fear or favour.

“President Zuma can be given those assurances at a political level but this does not prevent the criminal justice system from operating. Otherwise we would not be living in a country governed by the rule of law‚” Gutto said.

Gutto said another option open for Zuma was that a new president may grant him a pardon.

“However‚ he might be granted pardon after he had been convicted of a crime. After conviction‚ whoever is a new president has a constitutional power to grant him a pardon.”

However‚ Gutto said the National Prosecuting Authority still needed to prosecute him.

“President Zuma might be convicted on some charges or acquitted. If convicted and sentenced‚ only a new president may grant him a pardon.”

The Democratic Alliance said if Zuma were to be granted immunity‚ this would be the most corrupt act imaginable and would demolish a cornerstone of our democracy‚ the rule of law.

“Should Ramaphosa choose to offer or purport to grant Zuma immunity from prosecution‚ the DA will not hesitate to go to court.

“We cannot condone or allow Zuma to escape accountability for breaking his oath of office and putting his friends and family above the best interests of the people of South Africa‚” DA federal executive chairman James Selfe said.

- With Thabo Mokone


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