COMMENT AND ANALYSIS
It's almost surreal to be back in the same position we were in at the end of 2007, just before the ANC's seismic Polokwane elective conference, with Jacob Zuma preparing to be charged with fraud and corruption. Ever since his victory at that conference, his rule has put untold pressure on our constitutional democracy. Friday's judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein increases that pressure further. Here's our take on where the pressure points are:
1. Jacob Zuma
He has been dodging, ducking and diving the corruption and fraud charges relating to Schabir Shaik bribing him and a R500,000 payment Shaik solicited from an arms dealer for him since 2005. He has used every legal avenue available to him and refitted the criminal justice sector by hiring and firing to serve his purposes. Space is clearly being closed down and as he has shown in the past, once he is under pressure, he reacts ruthlessly and irrationally.
2. The ANC
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The ANC has suffered badly at the hands of Zuma. The party has steadily, and then suddenly, regressed under his leadership. It has shed support since the general election in 2009 and lost three metropolitan municipalities last year. It is riven by factionalism, corruption and greed and is in bad shape going into its elective conference at Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, in eight weeks' time. Any objective observer would agree that if the ANC wants a fighting chance in the general elections in 2019 and an opportunity to reinvent itself, Zuma would have to go.
3. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Zweli Mkhize
The judgment -- and all that is going to follow -- presents an opportunity for Cyril Ramaphosa and Zweli Mkhize to put clear blue water between themselves and the party's tainted incumbent leader. Ramaphosa has been vocal about the need to clean house and that corruption is a poisonous scourge. His problem, however, is that he serves as Zuma's deputy, which taints him by association. Mkhize is one degree further removed and will also be able to cast himself as Zuma's antithesis. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is in trouble. She has been campaigning on a radical economic transformation ticket but will simply have to take a position on this, and it cannot be in support of the president.
4. The Constitution
In March last year, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng delivered a scathing indictment of Zuma's relationship with the country's founding document, saying that he has failed to respect and defend the Constitution; he essentially violated it, his principal and most important job. Besides that judgment, Zuma has sought to subvert justice by weakening the country's criminal justice actors, leaving the police and Hawks in the hands of minions and compromised commanders, as well as appointing people to positions for which they have no backbone -- read "Shaun Abrahams". If Zuma continues to subvert justice and manipulate institutions that administer justice, we might be headed for a constitutional crisis. Having a sitting president in the dock is unprecedented.
5. The National Prosecuting Authority
Abrahams to me last year: "I would charge a sitting president if a sitting president has a case to answer to. It doesn't matter who it is."— Mandy Wiener (@MandyWiener) October 13, 2017
Abrahams has been dire ever since Zuma appointed him as national director of public prosecutions (NDPP). His macho performance last year -- when he charged fired finance minister Pravin Gordhan by saying "the days of disrespecting the NPA are over", only to have to withdraw the charges -- were embarrassing to say the least. Abrahams and the National Prosecuting Authority have been missing in action while the rest of the country has been staring, aghast, at daily revelations of industrial-scale corruption. He has been a rock of support for Zuma, charging Gordhan on a whim while appealing the court's decision that Zuma must be charged. He will be forced to make a legally sound call now.
6. The courts
Our legal system is functioning. It is not easy to pursue politically powerful people and even though the wheels of justice turn slowly, in this case almost creaking to a halt, they turn nonetheless. The Pretoria high court showed its mettle in resisting sentiment and pressure when it dismissed former NDPP Mokotedi Mpshe's 2009 decision to drop charges as "irrational". The SCA also held firm, reaffirming the lower court's judgment. But the real test would be if a sitting president is put in the dock.
7. The state capture project
Rent-seekers and agents of state capture have had a royal time in the past couple of years. Billions of rands have been siphoned from various state-owned entities, such as Eskom, Transnet, Prasa and the SABC. The Zuma free-for-all is now drawing to an end, and they know it. Expect a flurry of activity as the leeches that have sucked the fiscus dry make a last-ditch effort to score and loot whatever they can, without regard for economic stability or future prospects. As Ajay Gupta allegedly told former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas (according to the public protector's report on state capture), they've made a lot of money from the state -- most of it secured in Dubai -- and want to increase the figure to R8 billion. It's time to get out of Dodge.