|September 13, 2008
Landmark ruling by Natal High Court in favour of Zuma
Parts of the ANC want President Thabo Mbeki to resign sparked by Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Chris Nicholson's statement that Mbeki interfered with the charging and multiple attempts to prosecute his rival, ANC president Jacob Zuma.
Judge Nicholson ruled that the National Prosecuting Authority's latest bid to charge Zuma was invalid. Judge Nicholson confirmed Zuma's long-held claim that his prosecution was a political conspiracy, despite the ANC NEC under Mbeki denying this in 2005.
Although Mbeki denied ever interfering and vowed to challenge the judgment, it was clear his political authority has been irreparably damaged. Militants within the ANC and its alliance structures, who had called for Mbeki's head as early as January, said the judgment had vindicated their call for an early election.
Jacob Zuma however has appealed to this followers not “to continue beating a snake which already dead” but to concentrate on preparing for the elections instead which are supposed to take place in April next year – if nothing changes.
Next week, the ANC NEC's scheduled meeting is likely to be dominated by these discussions to fire Mbeki. ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the alliance would meet and decide on the implication of the judgment. Both Cosatu and the SA Communist Party will deliberate on Mbeki's fate at their separate special executive committee meetings next week. National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete told the Saturday Star that the National Assembly could act after studying the judgment.
The constitution allows the National Assembly, through a two-thirds majority vote, to remove the president if he is guilty of serious misconduct or is unable to perform his duties. In his ruling, Judge Nicholson implied Mbeki influenced acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe's decision to charge Zuma in December 2007. The president's suspension of prosecutions chief Vusi Pikoli was also cited as an example of political interference. "The timing of the indictment by Mr Mpshe on December 28 2007, after the president suffered a political defeat at Polokwane, was most unfortunate. This factor, together with the suspension of Mr Pikoli, who was supposed to be independent and immune from executive interference, persuade me that the most plausible inference is that the baleful political influence was continuing," Judge Nicholson said.
(Cape Argus, Cape Town)