Ardent supporters of South Africa's ruling party say they are shocked by former President Thabo Mbeki remarks after an appeals court ruled that graft charges against the party leader Jacob Zuma be pursued. Mbeki said he feels vindicated by the court's ruling to reinstate corruption charges against Zuma, the ruling African National Congress president. Mbeki adds that the court was right to overrule a judge who suggested that Mbeki politically interfered in the corruption case. Thabo Mbeki fired Zuma as South Africa's vice president after Zuma was linked to a corrupt arms and other misdeeds. But Zuma supporters maintain the graft charges are politically motivated to thwart the ANC leader's presidential ambitions. Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni tells reporter Peter Clottey that Mbeki's remarks should not be a surprise.
"I think the statement was expected. You would remember that the judgment of earlier Judge Nicholson, which had indicated through inference that he (Mbeki) might have interfered with the case against Jacob Zuma together with his cabinet ministers was a trigger point for his recall by his party, the African National Congress. And he (Mbeki) felt aggrieved because he always maintained even in his appeal for this decision to be reviewed that this was not true. Something that he revealed in his statement when he was leaving office, but also the fact that they were never given the chance to prove themselves," Fikeni pointed out.
He said Monday's judgment lifts a significant burden off Thabo Mbeki's shoulders.
"This in itself might be a relief for him removing the cloud, which was not tested in a way according to his claim. So this is in line with his appeal that the decision be reviewed. So it is to be expected," he said.
Fikeni said deep suspicion of Thabo Mbeki harbored by Zuma supporters is visible in accusations leveled against South Africa's former president.
"These reactions are from the core supporters of Jacob Zuma who feel a bit awkward and besieged by this particular decision coming only a few days after the ANC had a very successful launch of its manifesto and 97th anniversary. It is expected because they first reacted negatively when Thabo Mbeki didn't attend the ANC 97th anniversary and the launch of the manifesto. But they also accuse him of a part in assisting of the breakaway group, even though they have not provided evidence," Fikeni noted.
He reiterated that tension and suspicion continues to worsen between supporters of former President Mbeki and Zuma backers.
"There is this mutual suspicion and some negative energy between the supporters of Zuma and Thabo Mbeki," he said.
Fikeni said Monday's ruling, which clears the way for graft charges to be revived against Zuma, might possibly put South Africa's presidency into unchartered waters if the ANC leader is elected in the upcoming general election.
"Definitely, this is such an awkward situation, which might be a nightmare for ANC's election strategies or even ANC leaders looking beyond the election because if the matter is not resolved now before the election, it means you would have a sitting president who would be going to court cases now and again," Fikeni pointed out.
He said Zuma would be undergoing significant stress if elected president while undergoing trial for graft charges.
"And with a cloud hanging over his head, this cannot be a comforting news for the market and for many other international investors who may actually see this as on potential sign of instability," he said.
Fikeni said the ruling party would be accused of using its majority to undermine the country's democratic efforts if it attempts to amend the constitution, which would make the president immune from prosecution.
"If the ANC then were to try and have the kind of constitutional amendment that you had seen in countries such as Italy where Silvio Berlusconi is now immune as a sitting leader of the country, that in South Africa would draw a negative reaction because it would be taken as ANC abusing its majority to change the constitution," Fikeni noted.
Zuma has been heavily tipped to become South Africa's next president this year, although a breakaway faction formed a new political party to challenge the ANC in the election. Until now, Zuma's popularity has prevailed, that is before Monday, when a South African appeals court in Bloemfontein ruled that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) could revive the graft charges against him.
Monday's ruling clears Mbeki of allegations he influenced the raising of the graft charges. However, Mbeki maintains that telling lies for political favors and gains is becoming a practice entrenched in the society, and he warns it could undermine the cohesion that exists in the South African public.