Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Sweetest Deal

If Jacob Zuma wants to do a deal with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), one which would get them off his back and enable him to campaign in the upcoming general election as a free man, then we have the perfect arrangement for both parties.

It is simply this: the NPA will agree to drop its charges against Zuma in return for a written promise from him that within his first week as president of the republic he will authorise the creation of an independent judicial inquiry into the strategic arms deal of the late '90s.

The chief justice will appoint the head of the inquiry, the NPA's evidence against Zuma will be handed over to the inquiry, which will have its own budget and its own investigators.

What could be better for all concerned, including us as a country? Zuma, as president, could testify if (when) called to do so, as would a host of others -- Thabo Mbeki, Alec Erwin, Trevor Manuel, the Shaiks -- central to the acquisition programme.

We must clear the air here. The arms deal has poisoned our public life and, in clearing it, we would also still require Zuma to face cross-examination at an inquiry but, crucially, he would do that along with all the other politicians he has accused of plotting against him. He would not be betraying them either -- merely facilitating their public testimony.

Our ideal deal also gets the ANC off the hook it is on right now. It needs to go into the election campaign of the next few months with a focus ed candidate cleansed -- however temporarily -- of the charges he faces.

Temporarily, yes. For, obviously, should an independent inquiry uncover genuine cases of criminality, they would have to be pursued. There would, obviously, be the possibility that people would give evidence on the basis that they could not incriminate themselves, but that is detail. What South Africans want to know is the truth. Who did what, why, when, how much did it cost and how much did they (or their party) get?

This is not to let Zuma off the hook. It is to do the job properly. We already know what he and Schabir Shaik did, the numerous favours Shaik did for him , the bills he paid for him. A trial would not test any of those facts. Zuma himself has admitted them. A trial would merely have to decide whether he was conniving with Shaik or merely the naive recipient of what he thought were genuine favours from a friend.

For some there might be satisfaction in hearing a judge pronounce "guilty" or otherwise. But if it is "guilty" then it's an appeal next and then another. Of the arms deal we will hear no more.

We would rather know the truth a little later than bury an arms deal small fry like Zuma now.

The NPA has a big decision to make when Zuma's team approaches it, as it reportedly plans to do. It can stick to the letter of the law like Judge Louis Harms did last week and refuse to drop the charges.

Or it could, in the national interest, stretch its mandate and try to find, along with Zuma's team, a way to do the country a big favour and guarantee a full inquiry once Zuma becomes president.

Failing that, Zuma could seek a stay of prosecution.

There the answer must be the same -- Yessir, okay, in return for a full inquiry into the arms deal.

1 Opinion(s):

Vince R said...

Yah but they keep changing the goalposts. Even if this happens, it will turn into a circus like the TRC. People will weep and wring hands, but there will be blanket amnesty for all concerned (I bet you anything) and the guilty will walk out white as snow. One thing is for sure, whatever form any agreement takes (if it does) there will NOT be any squaring up to reality or true accountability. Man, ek fokken ken hulle!