In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress party (ANC) will today Monday hold its first National Executive Committee meeting after being elected last month at the Polokwane Congress. Some political observers believe today’s meeting would discuss the corruption charges being leveled against newly elected ANC president Jacob Zuma. It is also believed that the possibility of Zuma going to jail or the case against him dragging into election year in 2009 could potentially put the ANC in an awkward position.
The National Prosecuting Authority is expected to put Zuma on trial for alleged corrupt activities in August this year, charges he denies. Meanwhile supporters of Zuma maintain that the charges against him are politically motivated to thwart his presidential ambitions.
Rok Ajulu is a professor of international relations in South Africa. From the capital, Pretoria he tells reporter Peter Clottey although the charges against Zuma would not be a part of today’s agenda, they will be discussed.
“The ANC NEC (National Executive Committee), which was elected in Polokwane is meeting for the first time today on Monday. The Zuma charges are not on the agenda even though Zuma has indicated that he has discussed the charges with the deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and the secretary general Gwede Mantashe. The discussion of those issues is not really on the agenda, but there is no doubt that it will crop up. But this is now a case, which before the court and there is no much that the discussion in the ANC will change the fact that the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) has decided to recharge Zuma,” Ajulu pointed out.
He said some South Africans are not happy about the timing of the decision to recharge Zuma, which came a few days after he was elected president of the ruling ANC party.
“Good cross sections of people that include Zuma supporters have read conspiracy into this matter. The question most people are raising is the timing of the charges. You would recall that soon as Zuma won the elections in Polokwane, I think the day after the NPA came up with the announcement that they now have prosecutable case against Zuma. And most people ask why was the timing, why start now that Zuma won the election? The decision to announce the preferred charges against him during the Christmas holidays has been critiqued on the base of its timing and there have been suggestions that they smell some conspiracy,” he said.
Ajulu said supporters of Zuma have maintained the charges against him are politically motivated to thwart his presidential aspirations by the powers that be.
“Of course supporters of Zuma have come out very strongly against this and have suggested very clearly that the president of the state (Thabo Mbeki) is using state institutions to continue his fight against Zuma. Those arguments have been in the press,” Ajulu noted.
He said the ruling party could find itself in an unfortunate situation because of the charges against its president. He however noted that the NEC meeting Monday would be looking at the way forward to address any pitfalls.
“Indeed it puts the ANC in an awkward position because you can reckon that the case starts in August. If the case starts in August it will probably drag on all the way to April next year, a critical period of the election. So you can just imagine! Put yourself in a situation where this is the president of the ANC campaigning for the election and at the same time facing the charges, a very awkward position. And the ANC has not actually come out with any idea as to how they will deal with that if Zuma fails to get the case struck out over all. So may be at the meeting today Monday we probably are going to have an idea how the ANC is going to deal with that awkward position,” he said.