The interim director of South Africa's
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is expected to hold discussions today
reportedly considering dropping graft charges against the leader of the ruling African
National Congress Party, Jacob Zuma. This comes after the NPA spokesman Tlali
Tlali said prosecutors were considering whether to drop the charges against
Zuma after he lodged a legal request. Supporters of the ANC leader maintain
graft charges against him are politically motivated, aimed to thwart his
presidential ambitions. With the ruling party enjoying overwhelming support,
Zuma is expected to become South Africa's next president after the April 22
Constitutional law expert, Professor Shaddrack Gutto tells
reporter Peter Clottey that there is a sharp division in opinion about the
graft charges against Zuma.
think the issue for today (Monday) is one in which you have to put in context
because it is not the meeting which will simply result in dropping the charges.
The meeting we expect will deal with the issue whether or not charges are going
to be dropped and either way, whether it is being dropped or not. So it is not
something which is at this point in my view a fait accompli because there is
divided opinion on this matter," he said.
noted the ANC leader seems to maintain that the charges against him are meant to
prevent him from becoming the next president, although Zuma has yet to deny
that he committed a crime.
is very serious for the National Prosecuting Authority because they had
indicated they had a very strong case. And what the accused person, Jacob Zuma,
has presented to them and which they ought to consider to decide on, whether
they prosecute them or not, are really relevant because they amount to saying I
was not alone. In not saying there was no wrongdoing, all he is saying is that
the decision to prosecute him for those wrong decisions was politically
motivated," he said.
Gutto said there are
reasons to believe that news reports suggesting that the NPA wants to drop
charges against the ANC leader are meant to put more pressure on the prosecuting
authority to drop the graft charges ahead of the general election.
"That is a view which I
think has some credence because it emanated from basically one of the brothers
of Zuma's former financial advisor who was convicted of corruption and his
relation with Jacob Zuma. So from that point of view, he is one of those who
seem to have indicated that we should very quickly see that Zuma will not be
tried and the press then picked and tried to build on that. So I believe it is
a matter where they (supporters of Zuma) are testing public sentiment by
leaking information to the press. And it is not something that is coming from
the National Prosecution Authority. It is being forced on them," Gutto pointed
He said the opposition COPE
has a point which some South Africans uphold, which is when the charges against
Zuma are dropped, the move would undermine the country's rule of law.
"I think that if at all the
charges are dropped that would be one of the ways in which the public will
interpret what has happened. Of course, the diehard supporters of the ANC and
its leadership position at this time will say it is the right thing to do
because they have tried to throw all sorts of mud and tried to confuse the
public by first of all saying former President (Thabo) Mbeki is implicated in
the arms deal. But they seem to have now abandoned that and to moved on to
other things relating to conversations which are alleged to have been had. And
if it is true that Jacob Zuma has those tapes, they were definitely obtained illegally
and unconstitutionally," he said.
ANC president Jacob Zuma has denied wrongdoing and says
he is the victim of a political conspiracy in the corruption, money laundering
and racketeering charges laid against him days after he defeated former South
African President Thabo Mbeki for the ANC leadership at a conference in
Political observers say if the charges against Jacob Zuma
are dropped, it could go a long way toward boosting the ANC's campaign in April
22 elections, where it faces its greatest electoral challenge since apartheid
ended in 1994, but is still expected to emerge the winner. The breakaway
Congress of the People (COPE) is expected to reduce the ANC's domination in
parliament, in the face of growing public anger over corruption, poor services,
poverty, and crime.
South Africa's opposition parties, including COPE, have sharply condemned any move to drop charges against the African
National Congress leader, saying it would be a clear interference in the
judiciary by the government. They maintain that if the NPA agrees to withdraw the charges by means of a special,
backroom, deal with Zuma's legal team, this would create the impression that
the NPA had capitulated to political pressure from the ruling party.
ruling African National Congress is expected to maintain its two thirds
majority in parliament on April 22, despite facing a stiff challenge from the
breakaway COPE opposition party.