The decision by Jacob Zuma to oppose former president Mbeki’s application to the Constitutional Court to appeal sections of the Nicholson judgment may be the beginning of the end of his political career if the court rules in favour of the former president. The ruling would be a blow to Zuma’s attempt to escape criminal prosecution on a plea that there has been a carefully orchestrated political scheme to prevent him from occupying the highest office.
According to Zuma the circumstances around his dismissal following the conviction of Shabir Shaik and the subsequent charges against him in August 2005 led him to believe former president Mbeki was conniving against him. He claims that the decision to charge him of corruption was made shortly after the suspended national director of public prosecution Vusi Pikoli had accompanied the then state president, Thabo Mbeki, to Chile.
Zuma made his unsubstantiated allegations to the Mauritian courts early 2008 that he believed his prosecution has, from inception, been politically motivated as a result of the political beliefs and principles which he holds dear and which some of his political adversaries seek to negate by denying him the right to occupy important political office. By his adversaries, Zuma was referring to former president Mbeki. It is puzzling that one moment he refers to former president Mbeki as a brother and comrade and, when overwhelmed by his political ambitions, he refers to him as an adversary.
Again Zuma made these allegations of political conspiracy in his application to the Pietermaritzburg High Court to declare charges against him invalid due to the NPA’s failure to grant him an opportunity to make representations before being charged. Judge Nicholson, who presided over this case, made disparaging inferences against former president Mbeki and his Cabinet, which held that Zuma’s unsubstantiated claims of political conspiracy were plausible.
To this day, none of us has been privy to any evidence to support these widely distributed allegations against former president Mbeki and his Cabinet. The submissions by Jacob Zuma of notice to oppose the application by former president Mbeki to the Constitutional Court is a much needed opportunity for these allegations of political conspiracy to be put to bed once and for all.
Judge Nicholson has been widely lambasted and questioned on how he could have arrived at his findings in the absence of supporting evidence presented by Jacob Zuma. I suppose the burden of proof rests squarely on the shoulders of Jacob Zuma who is confronted with the challenge of convincing the Constitutional Court judges that his ridiculous claims hold water. It is not a complicated task for the Constitutional Court, given inferences contained in the Nicholson judgment, to arrive at the obvious conclusion that Chris Nicholson erred by entertaining nonsensical claims without calling for submissions and evidence to support them.
A ruling by the Constitutional Court against former president Mbeki would have serious consequences on his person and integrity and would provide sufficient grounds for Jacob Zuma upon successful appeal by the NPA against the Nicholson judgment to seek stay of prosecution. The road for Zuma to the Union Buildings may not be as effortless as previously anticipated upon the handing of judgment by Judge Nicholson. His has the arduous task of convincing the Constitutional Court that the findings or inferences by Judge Nicholson were justified.
The battle lines have been drawn. A nasty political tussle is about to place friendship spanning over three decades to a horrific test. Zuma has repeatedly called Mbeki his brother and the result of this Constitutional Court case would be a difficult test on the thickness of their blood to their respective political ambitions. Zuma’s high-spirited desire for high office, and his penchant for populist rhetoric, is so dominant a trait that it may lead to disastrous consequences, not only for him but for the country. Like William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Zuma may become the victim of his own mechanisations; his unrestrained aspirations are soon to be the primary cause of his ultimate downfall.
In 1978, in his speech titled “The Historical Injustice”, Mbeki quoted former president Nelson Mandela when he said, “In South Africa, where the entire population is almost split into two hostile camps … and where recent political events have made the struggle between oppressor and oppressed even more acute, there can be no middle course …”
The ANC is similarly split into two hostile camps and recent political events bear testimony to this indubitable truth. Attempting to find a middle ground within the ANC places any of its members in the firing line, as President Motlanthe recently learnt.
The letter purported to have been written by both Mbeki and Zuma that sought to address factionalism within the ANC is proving to have been a futile attempt to disguise what is now becoming more apparent; that the two men are soon to be come enemies or irreconcilable adversaries. The two leaders assured the public that they stand for unity in the ANC and are not at war with each other. Nicholson’s judgment has fermented a brotherly war!