Helen Zille, the leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), on Tuesday threatened to consider private prosecution of African National Congress president Jacob Zuma if the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) declines to act further against him.
She also called for a special joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament to allow President Thabo Mbeki to explain his actions, which were criticised in the judgement of Judge Chris Nicholson in Pietermaritzburg last Friday.
The judge declared corruption charges against Zuma invalid because of flawed prosecutorial procedure.
“Unless President Mbeki can satisfactorily explain his conduct before Parliament, he should resign,” Zille said.
She added that the parliamentary leader of the party, Sandra Botha, has written to the speaker requesting that Parliament be reconvened so that Mbeki can explain himself as a matter of urgency.
Zille and her party hierarchy say that Zuma must not be allowed to become president of the country with serious accusations of bribery, fraud, racketeering and money-laundering hanging over him.
“We need to be sure that a court has pronounced him innocent before he assumes that office and, if a court finds him guilty, that he has no chance of assuming that office.
“Because if somebody guilty of such serious corruption charges is in the highest office in this country, then the rot will quickly consolidate itself in the body politic, and it will be a disaster for everybody,” she said.
Zille stressed her party will first wait until the legal process currently under way has played itself out before proceeding. “We need to let the institutions of state work their way through this. If they fail us … that is the point where we have to draw the line.”
While they do not want to be seen to be conducting a vendetta against him, a private prosecution under section 7 of the Criminal Procedure Act would be one way of dealing with the issue.
“Given the prima facie case against Zuma, there appears to be no compelling reason for the NPA not to prosecute,” she said. “This time around, due care must be taken to ensure that Zuma’s rights are not infringed, and that he is given the opportunity afforded by the Constitution to make representations to the NPA. But the prosecution must go ahead.”
The route of a private prosecution, she added, is not her first option, but she insisted: “It would be a miscarriage of justice if Zuma were to get off the hook due to a legal technicality.”
Arms deal inquiry
The DA leader also called again for a judicial commission of inquiry into the arms deal, and she said that on Tuesday morning she wrote personally to the president asking him to appoint a commission urgently.
“If President Mbeki has nothing to hide, there is no reason for him not to appoint a commission of inquiry,” she said. “He certainly has nothing to lose politically.”
Zille called for an end to the commission of inquiry under former speaker Frene Ginwala.
She noted that Nicholson criticised the way that the ministers of justice Penuell Maduna and Brigitte Mabandla undermined the independence of the national director of public prosecutions, and that the judge commented that the suspension of prosecutions chief Vusi Pikoli was “a most ominous move that struck at the core of a crucial state institution”.
“This has an immediate bearing on the Ginwala commission of inquiry into Pikoli’s suspension,” she said, adding: “I believe that the court ruling invalidates the need for the Ginwala commission and that the commission should be abandoned accordingly.”
The method of appointment of the national director of public prosecutions needs to be re-examined, Zille said. She has asked the DA’s constitutional affairs spokesperson, MP Len Joubert, to look at the possibility of setting up a body similar to the Judicial Service Commission to make the appointments.
‘Mbeki won’t be president’
Meanwhile, the ANC Youth League claims that the majority of ANC national executive committee (NEC) members agree that President Thabo Mbeki must be removed from office.
The party’s national working committee was meeting on Monday and Tuesday, with speculation that the implications of Nicholson’s judgement fallout on Mbeki would top the agenda. It is customary for the ANC not to comment during the course of an NWC meeting.
“We have approached individual members of the ANC NEC to ensure that the removal of Thabo Mbeki becomes an ANC NEC resolution this weekend, and the majority of them are agreeing with us on this issue,” said league president Julius Malema at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
“We will have Mbeki removed. We don’t fight to lose. He is going. It doesn’t matter who said what; Mbeki won’t be president when we go to the election. It must be an ANC NEC decision by this weekend,” said Malema.
He denied that Zuma had said Mbeki must remain in office until elections next year.
“I don’t think we are contradicting the president … [but] he will speak on behalf of the NEC on Sunday,” said Malema. — Sapa, I-Net Bridge