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
6 November 2006

SCA judgment in Shaik case must be bad news for Zuma

It might be a good idea for Cosatu’s Swelenzima Vavi, the SACP’s Blade Nzimande and those aging youngsters in the ANC Youth League leadership to take some time off from their busy schedules to read the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment in the case of Shaik v The State. At the very least it should make their ears burn with embarrassment. At best, it should help them to reassess their support for Jacob Zuma and their insistence that we should not judge him in any way because he is “innocent until proven guilty”.

Yes, the Court – and interestingly enough the judgment was signed “The Court” and not as is usually the case by a single judge and then merely signed on by the other judges, thus suggesting the strong need for the Court to show unanimity in this case – is careful throughout the judgment to note that the evidence only prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Shaik had had the intention to commit fraud and corruption. It is conceivable – although getting less likely – that Zuma may never be found guilty of a crime because the State may not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he had the intention to be corrupted. He may argue that he was so out of touch with his finances and so naive, magnanamous and clueless that he never made the connection between the money given to him and the favours he did for Shaik.

Technically the Vavi‘s, Nzimande’s and the Mbalula’s of our political landscape are thus correct to say that just because Shaik had been convicted of corrupting Zuma does not mean Zuma is guilty of corruption. After all, corrution has a technical legal meaning and Zuma‘s conduct may not fall within this technical legal definition. Given the bumbling way in which the State’s handled the Zuma part of this case so far, it is conceivable that they never get it together to present to Court sufficient evidence that would get a Court to find beyond reasonable doubt that Zuma is guilty of the crime of corruption.

But whether Zuma is ever convicted of corruption or not, any reasonably dispassioned reading of the Shaik judgment cannot but leave a deep disquiet about the possibility of Zuma ever becoming President of the Country. Many of the most damning facts have either been found true beyond a reasonable doubt by two different courts of law or were admitted as true by Shaik. These facts include:

  • Shaik paid Zuma more than R1 million over an extensive period of time. The payments were for a wide range of things including children’s school fees, rental for a flat, new tyres for a car and R15000 for “Christmas money”.
  • Shaik and Zuma concocted a “loan agreement” that purported to represent an agreement between them about the repayment of this money with interest. But this agreement never stipulated the loan amount and thus could not but be a fabrication by the two, probably to pre-empt the requirements of Parliament’s members interest regime. This means that if the SCA is correct – and they found evidence beyond reasonable doubt on this – then Zuma lied to Parliament when he stated that the money form Shaik was a loan. This also places his not much remarked upon decision to resign from Parliament after the original Shaik verdict came out.
  • Zuma did several “favours” for Shaik, including meeting the Frenh Arms Manufacturers in Paris to convince them of the BEE credentials of Shaiks company. This worked and shortly afterwards Shaik’s company was awarded lucrative arms contracts.
  • Zuma attended a meeting with Shaik and Thetard on either 10 or 11 March 2000 where the bribe agreement was reached. In answer to a question in Parliament whether Zuma had had “any meetings on 11 March 2000 and/or on any other specified dates with Mr Alain Thetard, former head of Thompson CSF’s (now Thales) Southern Africa division and/or Mr Shabir Shaik in Durban or elsewhere …” Zuma replied: “I did not meet Alain Thetard on 11 March 2000 in Durban or anywhere else in South Africa.” If the SCA is correct this statement by Zuma was therefore a lie.

This means that although Zuma is not a criminal, he is a proven fibber who took more than R1 million from his “advisor” and then did many favours for the advisor by using his political office and clout. This makes Zuma ethically and politically unsavoury. More so because he has never explained any of these proven facts, always hinting only at a conspiracy.

It would be interesting to hear his answers were journalists to start asking him why he lied to Parliament, why he cooked up the loan agreement with Shaik, why he did favours for Shaik, and why he was paid more than a million bucks by Shaik at the time when he was doing these favours. They should ask it every single time they get the chance and ask again and again. Because in South Africa there is a tendency to rely on courts as the only possible judges of character, journalists need to do the hard work to remind all of us that while Zuma might not be a criminal, he is not a man that is a friend of the turth. And how would Vavi respond?

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