Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
8 May 2009

Mpshe was wrong to drop Zuma charges says plagiarised judge

The website Grubstreet has a nice scoop on an issue that many people wish us to sweep under the carpet now that we have had our election. After all, we are now all going to live happily ever after and Mr Jacob Zuma is going to eradicate poverty and unemployment in the next year. That will teach the mother grundies who just cannot seem to forget that our President-elect has a very dark ethical cloud hanging over his head.

Grubstreet reports that Justice Conrad Seagroatt – the man whose judgment was plagiarised by Mpshe to try and justify the indefensible – has suggested that acting National Director of Public Prosecutions, Moketedi Mpshe, was wrong to drop the charges against ANC President Jacob Zuma when he did.

When the judge had initially been contacted by the journalist Gill Moodie, Seagroatt had described Mpshe’s plagiarism of his judgment as “sloppy and undisciplined” based the schedule of extracts published on Politicsweb.co.za. However, at that stage he had not seen the full Mpshe statement itself. In a further email to Moodie, published on the Grubstreet.co.za weblog, Seagroatt made four further criticisms of the NDPP’s decision (according to Politicsweb):

Firstly, he noted that his judgment had been overturned by the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong. “In the light of this Mpshe should not only have given proper attribution to the passages in my judgement upon which he obviously relied, but should have explained why he relied upon them in preference to the H.K.C.F.A’s decision. There was certainly room for him to do so.”

Secondly, he stated that the facts of the case he was dealing with were not really applicable to Zuma’s situation. Mpshe’s “own statement is so limited and sketchy” Seagroatt wrote, “that I find it impossible to identify why he was relying on my judgement. In the Hong Kong case the behaviour of the prosecution which I criticised was its failure to disclose material evidence in relation to an expert witness upon whom it relied as pivotal to its case. The first “whiff” of such evidence did not emerge until the jury were considering their verdicts and I had to stop the trial at that stage – a very rare event. The C.F.A. did not disagree with that decision; in effect they approved it.”

Thirdly, and further to this point, Seagroatt notes that “What Mpshe seems to have taken as the justification for his decision was not a material aspect of the trial procedure but a decision made by some branch of the investigative process as to when and where Jacob Zuma should be charged on the basis of political considerations. That is an entirely different scenario. Many might argue that motivation in relation to timing of a charge is very different from manipulation of the evidence available.”

Finally, Seagroatt observed, that such decisions are ones best left to a judge to decide. “It is very strongly arguable that [Mpshe] should have let the trial process begin before a judge, leaving the aspect which seems to have dominated his proper role as the prosecutor (the old adage being a ‘prosecutors’ job is to prosecute) to be determined by the judge with the N.D.P.P. being entirely candid (as he should be) as to the conduct of the investigative and prosecuting agencies.”

Having noted all of this does not mean I was not very impressed with Mr Jacob Zuma’s speech after his election as President in the National Assembly. Compared to the occasional self-important and pompous blathering of Thabo Mbeki, his speech was light, witty and humble. A good start. Maybe if he does not only talk the talk but also walk the walk, over time we will learn to forget that dark cloud hanging over his head and how the National Intelligence Agency and the NPA was abused to get him off the hook.

I am holding thumbs.

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