Is Zuma finally finished? Lawyers point to ‘criminal, impeachable’ behaviour

It is possible that President Jacob Zuma could be stepping down sooner than previously expected – and possibly within days or weeks. He has given up on attempting to keep confidential a report on allegations of state capture involving his friends the Gupta brothers from India in the High Court today. The High Court has heard that there is information pointing to criminal, impeachable behaviour and there is an argument Zuma should pay the full legal costs of all the teams after wasting resources on a court bid that had no chance of success. Zuma is losing support fast from across the ANC. South Africans have been demonstrating in the streets for him to go. Meanwhile, the leader of the Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane, has hailed this week’s legal victory as a sign that the good guys are winning (see his full statement below). With the state capture report set to be made public soon, the big question is whether Jacob Zuma is coming to the end of his time as South Africa’s president. With rampant corruption and self-enrichment across the state sector and social problems like poverty, high crime and unrest at university campuses bedevilling the country many citizens are hoping he will be ejected soon – and possibly even before the end of the week. – Jackie Cameron

South African president Jacob Zuma. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg
South African president Jacob Zuma. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

By Amogelang Mbatha and Mike Cohen

(Bloomberg) — South African President Jacob Zuma abandoned a High Court bid to halt the release of a report of the nation’s graft ombudsman into allegations that the Gupta family, who are his friends, wielded undue influence over the government.

Anthea Platt, Zuma’s lawyer, made the announcement Wednesday in the High Court in Pretoria, the capital. Zuma had argued that he hadn’t been given adequate opportunity to respond to findings made in the Public Protector’s report and question witnesses. Four political parties including the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters opposed his application.

The decision marked the latest setback for Zuma, who’s facing growing pressure to resign. Chief executives of some of South Africa’s biggest companies are joining protests against his government in Pretoria along with members of civil rights, religious groups, opposition parties and a number of prominent members of the ruling African National Congress. The National Health and Allied Workers Union, a key ANC ally, on Tuesday urged the president to resign.

The Public Protector investigated whether members of the Gupta family sought to influence the dismissal and appointment of cabinet ministers and awarding of state contracts and licenses. The probe was completed just days before Thuli Madonsela’s seven-year term as graft ombudsman came to an end and she was replaced by Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who didn’t oppose the bid to halt the report’s release.

Zuma Pressure

On Tuesday, the High Court ruled that opposition parties were entitled to participate in the case. Their lawyers argued that the graft ombudsman’s report had been finalized and that Zuma could only challenge her findings in court after its release.

File Photo. President Jacob Zuma , Atul Gupta and Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kieviet at a New Age Breakfast in Port Elizabeth. www.flickr.com.
File Photo. President Jacob Zuma , Atul Gupta and Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kieviet at a New Age Breakfast in Port Elizabeth. www.flickr.com.

Zuma has come under pressure to explain his relationship with the Guptas, who he says are friends and are in business with his son, after current and former government officials claimed the family tried to influence their decisions. Both Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.

Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said in March that members of the family offered him the post of finance minister before Nhlanhla Nene was fired from the position and replaced by Van Rooyen, at the time a little-known lawmaker. The move sparked a selloff in the rand and nation’s bonds and led to the reappointment of Pravin Gordhan after business and political leaders intervened.

Zuma has clashed with the Public Protector before. In 2014, Madonsela found that the president unfairly benefited from a 215.9 million-rand ($16 million) taxpayer-funded upgrade of his private home, and in March this year the Constitutional Court found that he had violated his oath of office by refusing to abide by her recommendation to repay some of the money.

Presidency responds

President Jacob Zuma launched an application in the North Gauteng High Court seeking to interdict the Public Protector from publishing an interim report pursuant to an investigation into complaints of improper and unethical conduct by the President and/or officials of state organs due to the alleged inappropriate relationship with members of the Gupta family.

The basis of the application, as originally contended, was that the President was not afforded a reasonable opportunity to provide meaningful input into the investigation and asked the court to be given an opportunity to do so.

In short, the President contended that:

  • He has a right to be provided with incriminating evidence before he answers the questions posed to him.
  • He is entitled to question witnesses, as determined by the Public Protector, which witnesses appeared before the Public Protector.

When the application was launched, it was not clear whether the investigation was finalized. The Public Protector has since clarified that the Report was signed and finalized by the former Public Protector on 14 October 2016.

The Constitution provides that everyone has the right to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.

In the interest of justice and speedy resolution of the matter, the President decided to withdraw his application. The President will give consideration to the contents of the report in order to ascertain whether it should be a subject of a court challenge.

Zuma withdrawal catches Public Protector’s office by surprise

By Jenni Evans

Cape Town – The Public Protector’s office appeared to have been caught by surprise by President Jacob Zuma’s withdrawal of a court application for an interdict against the immediate release of the so-called ”state capture” report on Wednesday.

Spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said he had just seen the latest developments and would have to first consult with the new Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane before responding.

New Public Protector Busisiwe Joyce Mkhwebane
New Public Protector Busisiwe Joyce Mkhwebane

Mkhwebane’s first weeks on the job after taking over from her predecessor Thuli Madonsela on October 17 have been overshadowed by Zuma’s application to stop the release of the report on the grounds that he was not given a chance to respond properly before it was made public.

However, Madonsela had said Zuma had been given copies of information passed on to her, and had been given a chance to respond.

Also read: SA heroine Thuli Madonsela chews fat on Zuma, #FeesMustFall – and what’s next

The instruction by Zuma to withdraw the application was conveyed in the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Probe

Zuma faced a probe of state capture and violation of the Executive Ethics Act after allegations by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas and former MP Vytjie Mentor that the wealthy Gupta family had offered them Cabinet jobs.

Mcebisi claimed to have been offered the job of finance minister, and Mentor public enterprises.

On Tuesday the court ruled that Co-operative Governance Minister Des Van Rooyen’s application to also interdict the release of the report was not urgent.

He was finance minister for four days in December and he and previous Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s positions were swopped after an outcry over Van Rooyen’s appointment as head of the public purse.

There have been allegations that his appointment as finance minister was driven by the Guptas.

The Guptas have denied all the state-capture allegations levelled at them.

On her last day in the position, Madonsela was supposed to have released the report on what has been dubbed ”state capture” but Zuma indicated his intention to apply for the interdict.

It was not released as planned, and was put under lock and key for the handover weekend ahead of Mkhwebane starting on that Monday.

At the time, two conflicted statements were also issued from Parliament – one saying they would not accept the report, and a later one chiding the author of the first statement, and saying that Parliament would keep it safe as requested.

Mkhwebane said she would have to wait for the court process to conclude before releasing it. – News24

Source: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/zuma-withdrawal-catches-public-protectors-office-by-surprise-20161102

“Democracy is under attack, but the good guys are winning”

Speech by Mmusi Maimane, leader of the DA

The following speech was delivered today by the DA Leader outside the North Gauteng High Court in Tshwane:

File photo: Mmusi Maimane, parliamentary leader of the Democratic Alliance, center, and Helen Zille, party leader of the Democratic Alliance, right, join Democratic Alliance lawmakers at a protest against President Jacob Zuma's failure to answer questions in the legislature, outside the National Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa. Photographer: Mike Cohen/Bloomberg
File photo: Mmusi Maimane, parliamentary leader of the Democratic Alliance, center, and Helen Zille, party leader of the Democratic Alliance, right, join Democratic Alliance lawmakers at a protest against President Jacob Zuma’s failure to answer questions in the legislature, outside the National Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa. Photographer: Mike Cohen/Bloomberg

My fellow South Africans,

Our democracy is under attack. Our Constitution is under attack. Our Treasury is under attack. Our state-owned companies are under attack.

Our President, Jacob Zuma, is doing his very best to help the Guptas plunder even more of our money. That’s his part of the robbery deal – to hand the crooks the keys to the safe and then look the other way.

But let me be clear here: State Capture cannot be blamed on one crooked family. The Guptas just spotted the opportunity and took it. If they hadn’t, Jacob Zuma’s ANC would have found another willing co-conspirator.

We are being robbed by the very people who are meant to look after us. But judging by the events of the past week, things aren’t going so well for the bad guys.

First the NPA’s Shaun Abrahams had to make an embarrassing about-turn on the trumped-up charges against Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Also read: Lawrence McCrystal: NPA’s folding shows SA’s wicked forces now in retreat.

And yesterday Zuma and his co-captured suffered yet another court defeat in the State Capture Report case.

Yes, our country is under attack. But make no mistake – the good guys are winning.

Built into our Constitution is the principle of accountability, and we have national consensus on this. Even if the corrupt elite don’t agree, the rest of us do. It is our duty to defend the Constitution and demand this accountability.

Because without accountability, many others will follow the example of Jacob Zuma, and this will cost us dearly. Shaun Abrahams’ foolish actions have already made South Africans poorer.

But if Shaun Abrahams thinks he’s off the hook because he dropped the charges against Minister Gordhan, he must think again.

Shaun Abrahams only dropped these charges because the pressure from all sides was unbearable. Not because he had a change of heart. Not because he applied his mind. He did it because he had no choice.

The charges should never have been there in the first place, and they never would have stood in court. Shaun Abrahams knows this.

National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams speaks during a media briefing in Pretoria, South Africa, May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams speaks during a media briefing in Pretoria, South Africa, May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

He knows he is being used as a pawn in Jacob Zuma’s game, and when he’s no longer useful he will join his discarded comrades under the bus.

The dropping of the charges against Pravin Gordhan is a small victory in one of many battles, but the war against Zuma’s state capture project still rages on.

Jacob Zuma and the Gupta crooks still think they are going to take charge of our Treasury and loot our country, but they are very much mistaken.

They underestimated the DA, they underestimated the public and they underestimated our judiciary. Zuma and the Guptas certainly know they have a fight on their hands.

And one of their big weapons – the man they put in charge of the NPA to fight their battles for them – has turned out to be a complete flop. Shaun Abrahams has bombed on the big stage.

The situation with our captured NPA is a real mess, but there is one positive to have come out of it: Captured cadres are being flushed out in droves.

Under the glare of the spotlight of our courts, people like Shaun Abrahams cannot hide. He has no choice but to show the world who he is and what he is.

He is what is known as a useful idiot – someone who is used by powerful players to fight their battles for them.

But Shaun Abrahams is by no means the only useful idiot hanging around Zuma and the Guptas. There are plenty more, and they too are being flushed out every day.

Yesterday a full bench of the North Gauteng High Court sent Zuma and two more of his useful idiots packing when they ordered that the DA’s application to intervene in the State Capture case be granted with costs.

The thought of this State Capture Report being made public was enough to bring all the Gupta cabinet ministers crawling from the woodwork to try and prevent its release.

If it weren’t such a serious matter, we’d be laughing at the inept way in which Ministers Des van Rooyen and Mosebenzi Zwane had to blow their cover when they thought the report would expose their Gupta ties.

Cartoon courtesy of Twitter @brandanrey
Cartoon courtesy of Twitter @brandanrey

Their last-minute attempts to interdict the report, and the way in which the court dismissed them with contempt, played out like a bad comedy. They might as well wear large Gupta signs around their necks from now on.

The good guys are winning, while Zuma and his crooked cronies continue to lose.

My fellow South Africans,

This march today is not just about supporting Minister Pravin Gordhan. This is about standing together, as a nation, and standing up to the corruption that threatens to destroy us.

This is about letting Zuma, the Guptas and all their useful idiots know that their days are numbered.

As for Shaun Abrahams, he has no choice but to resign immediately. I know he has said he won’t resign. But to be fair, he’s been saying a lot of things recently only to change his mind the next day.

Shaun Abrahams has dragged the NPA through the dirt in his attempt to please and appease Zuma. He has disrespected the institution, and he has disrespected each and every South African who looks to the NPA for protection under the law.

He must go. And if he doesn’t fall on his own sword, then the President must suspend him pending an inquiry into his fitness to hold office.

This won’t be the first time the DA has got rid of a captured head of the NPA. We’ve done it before with another Zuma yes-man, Menzi Simelane, and we’ll do it again with Shaun Abrahams.

We will not rest until our prosecuting authority is headed up by someone with the right credentials for this important job.

Someone who doesn’t do the bidding of the corrupt and powerful.

Someone who will act with integrity and independence.

Someone who will respect the decisions of the courts and reinstate the corruption charges against President Zuma.

Until that happens, we will continue to fight for the independence of the NPA. We will continue to fight for the protection of the Treasury. And we will continue to fight against every attempt to capture and loot our country’s resources.

Jacob Zuma and his useful idiots didn’t expect to run into this resistance. But we are Team SA. We are a proud nation, committed to the values of democracy and our Constitution.

Jacob Zuma and his cronies have met their match. We are here in court today to fight for the release of the State Capture Report, and when we have it we will hold each and every one of them accountable.

Because that’s what our hard-fought democracy deserves.

Thank you.

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