Opinion

When the law comes knocking for Zuma, he will try to take everything down with him

03 February 2019 - 00:07
The author believes that when Jacob Zuma is held to account for crimes committed during his presidency, the case will shake the foundations of our democracy.
The author believes that when Jacob Zuma is held to account for crimes committed during his presidency, the case will shake the foundations of our democracy.
Image: Felix Dlangamandla

What happens when Jacob Zuma eventually gets arrested on charges relating to state capture? This is a prospect SA, and particularly President Cyril Ramaphosa, must contend with as this will be no ordinary case.

When Zuma is held to account for crimes committed during his presidency, the case will shake the foundations of our democracy. The highest office in the land and the entire state will essentially be on trial.

It is untenable for the police and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to continue to ignore the damning allegations piling up against the former president as the Zondo commission unfolds.

On her first day in the hot seat, the new national director of public prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, made it clear that the state capture cases are a priority. She said impunity and disrespect for the rule of law needed to stop and that the "devastating allegations" emerging from the Zondo commission must be acted on.

Batohi said that because of the unprecedented nature and complexity of the alleged crimes, she wanted a highly specialised, well-funded unit to deal with the cases.

She is obviously well aware that it will be a mammoth task to construct watertight cases. The NPA is also still infested with people who deliberately sabotaged cases or stymied prosecutions.

There is clearly a basis to pursue prosecutions against players in the Gupta and Bosasa networks. The common figure in these two corruption ecosystems is Zuma.

As part of Zuma's efforts to revise his legacy and play political victim, he is priming his supporters to go on the offensive once the law catches up with him
Ranjeni Musumany

It is a matter of time before the investigations lead to his role in state capture and the benefits he allegedly derived from helping his friends amass wealth and shielding them from justice.

Zuma has hitherto not found it necessary to explain or deny any of the allegations that emerged in testimony at the state capture inquiry.

From Angelo Agrizzi's claim that he received R300,000 a month from Bosasa in what was essentially protection money, to former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene's evidence about Zuma's attempts to force approval for the nuclear deal, the former president clearly has some explaining to do.

Yet, quite extraordinarily, Zuma claims he has not been implicated in evidence at the Zondo commission and is being made a "scapegoat".

"I've been listening . what it says. Quite a number of people have been identified, told what they have done . specific amounts of monies. Nothing has been said about me," Zuma said in a video interview this week.

He also claimed that the inquiry, which he announced while still president, "was meant to find this corruption about me".

Is it possible that Zuma completely missed the part of Agrizzi's evidence where Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson practises how he will give him orders about who to appoint and suspend in key positions in the state?

Did nobody in his circle, including those who helped him write a 1,076-word treatise disputing that his presidency amounted to "nine wasted years", alert him to the serious allegations of corruption and subversion of the law?

Or is Zuma so detached from his moral compass that he does not know that secretly receiving money from crooked businesspeople while serving as the president of the republic amounts to crime and a breach of his oath of office?

Surely denouncing testimony that he received cash payments from a corrupt business empire would take priority over rebutting insinuations by Ramaphosa and finance minister Tito Mboweni that his presidency was wasted.

As part of Zuma's efforts to revise his legacy and play political victim, he is priming his supporters to go on the offensive once the law catches up with him.

As with his long-running corruption case, Zuma has every intention of arguing that future prosecutions related to state capture are politically motivated.

In his interview this week, Zuma reminded us of what he said when he resigned last February.

"I do not fear exiting political office. However, I have only asked my party to articulate my transgressions and the reason for its immediate instruction that I vacate office," Zuma said.

Eventually announcing his resignation, Zuma said: "Even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC."

A year later, even with evidence spilling out at the Zondo commission, Zuma is still denying his "transgressions" and trying to convince his supporters that he is being treated unfairly.

With finances running low for his legal woes, Zuma has to fight politically to survive and evade prison time.

Campaigning for the ANC is a convenient smokescreen to keep him politically relevant and gives him access to party structures. It also makes it difficult for the party to cut him loose when the law does come knocking.

Ramaphosa and the ANC are painting themselves into a corner by trying to play nice with Zuma while at the same time rebuilding the criminal justice system.

Eventually these two will clash and Zuma will not hesitate to take everything and everyone down with him.


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