South Africa's ruling African National Congress is expressing its displeasure with the National Prosecuting Authority in what it described as its casting aside all pretence of professionalism or political neutrality in the corruption case against the president of the party. This comes after the chairman of the prosecuting authority suggested in an interview that the agency's case against the ANC leader has become difficult to handle due to its political nature. Mokotedi Mpshe said the judge who recently threw out the corruption charges against ANC leader Jacob Zuma, citing political manipulation was wrong in his ruling. From the capital, Pretoria, South African political analyst Somadoda Fikeni tells reporter Peter Clottey that the ANC is treating the remark as supporting its long held view that Zuma is being subjected to political persecution.
"He (ANC general Secretary Gwede Mantashe) is expressing the sentiments of the current ANC leadership, which had hoped that after Nicholson's (South African Judge who threw away the graft charges against the leader of the ANC) judgment the matter would be laid to rest and then Zuma would then go to the presidency without all these legal hurdles. So that the director has shown such determination that they are appealing and not only that, but they would also pursue the case against Zuma. I'm sure that has angered a number of ANC people who thought the matter was closed," Fikeni pointed out.
He said the chairman of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is within his right to make comments about the case against the ANC leader.
"He definitely has a right to do that and as such what the NPA has been trying to do is to assert its autonomy from the executive and from the political pressures just like other entities within the country such as the justice system that has come under pressure due to the Zuma case and many other aspects of this transitional period. So all what he was trying to do is to assert that autonomy of the institution and also to state that the judgment itself was wrong to make assumption that there had been some interference in the work of the NPA by the political heads," he said.
Fikeni said there seem to be sharp differences in South Africa's society over the corruption charges against the President of the ANC Jacob Zuma.
"There is quite a division within the society. There are those who are actually puzzled by Zuma's appeal after appeal because they say if he had nothing to hide, he would avail himself and let this process go through. But there are those who feel that the case has gone on for too long. Therefore it would not be any justice against Zuma after so many years when these charges were hanging over his head. So the society itself is as divided on this matter as the political parties are," Fikeni pointed out.
He said the ANC president would be facing serious legal challenges if he wins the presidency in next year's election with his ongoing legal corruption problems.
"Definitely, this would be quite a complex issue. In fact, the opposition parties are going to raise the issue of values of leaders, the ethics and all that which the ANC would not be very comfortable with, especially, at a time when Zuma is facing all these legal hurdles. Once he (Zuma) becomes president and the charges go ahead, that is going to create a lot of friction between the judiciary and the executive branch," he said.
Fikeni reiterated that Zuma's possible presidency might be inhibited by his legal challenges, although the ruling might seek some relief to allow his him room to carry out his mandate as South Africa's president.
"It would also create many challenges for him because he cannot discharge his role without being disrupted by the court cases. And that in itself you might even have some of the ANC members looking for a special dispensation that would cover him while he is a sitting president, as was the case with Silvio Berlusconi in Italy," Fikeni noted.
The ANC said Mpshe's remark effectively admits that the National Prosecuting Authority is pursuing a political vendetta against ANC President Zuma.
The secretary general of the African National Congress Gwede Mantashe said Mpshe's statement is ample evidence that he and the NPA had very little regard for the rule of law and for the ruling of the judiciary. He added that Mpshe's statement that he would hold judge Chris Nicholson wrong even 14 years from now means he would insist on holding that position regardless of the outcome of the appeal the NPA is currently pursuing.