Some supporters of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party (ANC) president say the postponement of Jacob Zuma’s graft trial could be good news. They say any delay in prosecuting the ANC president strengthens his chances of becoming South Africa’s next president after Thabo Mbeki leaves office. A judge delayed Zuma’s corruption trial from its original scheduled date of August fourth this year.
This comes after one of the attorneys of the ANC president reportedly said there were other modalities that needed to be taken care of before the trial commences. He adds that Zuma’s defense team would be filing an application next month to effectively challenge the state's decision to prosecute him over the corruption allegations. Rok Ajulu is a professor of international relations in South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Pretoria that the delay in Zuma’s trial bodes well for his presidential ambition.
“Zuma is a likely successor to Mbeki and in between him and the presidency stands the trial. So, the trial for the political future of this country is very important. If there is a delay in the starting of the trial, it works in Zuma’s favor because a later delay means that election would find us before the conclusion of the trial. And ANC executives are on record to have said that they will support Zuma until such a time that he is found guilty and the court has pronounced,” Ajulu pointed out.
He said the National Prosecuting Authority might find it difficult to complete the corruption trial.
“You will recall that the prosecuting authority, which is known here as the scorpions is in the process of being disbanded. Two or three months down the line we are going to find disarray and each moving in different direction. All these seem to work in Zuma’s advantage,” he said.
Ajulu said the international community has a fuzzy idea about the circumstances surrounding Zuma’s possible corruption trial.
“Internationals don’t understand much about the Zuma case here in South Africa. It is the fact that the rank and file of the ANC doesn’t believe that there is a genuine case against Zuma. The rank and file of the ANC believes that there is a conspiracy, political conspiracy against Zuma, by the Mbeki camp. So, as far as they are concerned the whole trial of Zuma is dismissed as a political conspiracy, and if the delay is working in favor of Zuma then well and good and they will seem to support it. But I don’t think there is crisis the sort of that is imagined by the world that South Africa is going to explode with some sort of violence like the one we saw in Kenya a few months ago. That is far fetched imagination,” Ajulu noted.
He concurred that the possible overlap of Zuma’s corruption trial and the country’s next general elections could cause confusion.
“It may seem that it would cause confusion. But you see, according to the ANC rank and file here, it does not bother them. If Zuma has not been pronounced guilty by the court, he would be their presidential candidate and they will support him. And exactly the way they voted in the run up in Polokwane one can see that that is exactly what is going to take place. The court will be running parallel and Zuma would be doing the campaign. But my political assessment is that we are going to get to a stage where it is going to be unlikely to prosecute Zuma. I think we’ve got to look at that scenario as well,” he said.
Ajulu said supporters of Zuma are hopeful he would be the next president of South Africa.
“So, everybody is beginning to gear towards transition in which Zuma would be the player. Again we are faced with a situation where the scorpion is being disbanded. The bill is already going through parliament. At one stage or another trying Zuma would be a little bit of a hot cake that nobody would want to touch. You have to look at that scenario as well,” Ajulu pointed out.