Thursday, September 25, 2008


I’m combining South Africa and Africa this week. South Africa by the way did much better in the Para Olympic games in Beijing. Last time I checked we were 5th, so the country is happy about that.

Specifically, I want to note the men’s 200m race for people with prosthetic legs. Most had one. But there is a famous South African who has two. His story is famous because he was not allowed to participate in the normal games, though he wanted to, because the Olympics ruling bodies felt it gave him an unfair advantage. It’s an interesting story. He actually has a slow start compared to the other runners with at least one leg of flesh. But he has amazing acceleration and some how comes back to achieve the highest top speed. He won the race and received gold for that category. His name is Oscar Pistorius. I am especially interested in him because I met an American film maker in Colorado who is making a documentary about him in Durban.

Angola just had its first free election in 16 years which is huge. I like the quote I heard by a Unita (a group that fought for the total liberation of Angola) representative commenting on the election: “Democracy is a process not a destination, and this is part of that process.”

Well, the two resolutions (or temporary resolutions) that stood out to me the past two weeks involve South Africa and Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, exactly a week ago (from today, Monday) talks resumed and Mbeki flew back out to help get all sides to sign a compromise power-sharing deal. Well, they were finally concluded. The details of this new power-sharing government should be announced today. The hold-up so far has been with Tsvangirai receiving enough power as prime minister. Either way, my guess is he will have less power than Mugabe. We shall see. Thankfully the country can start to move on and see a Mugabe-free presidency in the near future.

Secondly, if you haven’t been following the charges against Zuma (head of the ANC and greatest potential to be president as head of the ruling party) it may be hard to understand what I’m talking about but it’s still important. A judge (a white judge) through out the charges against Zuma. So Zuma has won a major victory and will probably proceed to the April elections next year indictment-free. First, understand that in other countries, with such a cloud hanging over his head (corruption charges), he would have been asked to step down. But he commands such powerful support from the people including the president of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) who said he will eliminate anyone who stands in the way of Zuma getting to the presidency. The scary statement is at least toned down from his previous one of vowing to kill for Zuma.

It’s a bit hard to understand what’s going on here, but try for a minute. There have been protests against these corruption trial proceedings against Zuma. We had street violence last week in Durban. People say our rule of law has been corrupted as the head judge over all other judges (Cape Judge President) has been found to be lobbying other judges in favor of Zuma! Some people say the case is unfair, and Zuma’s being targeted. Others are saying if he’s committed a crime, he’s committed a crime. Others say he’s innocent until proven guilty. Others, vice-versa after his financial adviser was already convicted for corruption and fraud and is currently serving. The case against Zuma was dropped until the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) could get their case coherent and together. Well, now that they have tried to indict him a second time with their case “intact,” it’s been thrown out. Thankfully the judge did not throw it out due to its merit but due to the botched proceedings. The courageous judge sitting over it correctly (my guess/opinion) ruled that the proceedings were done incorrectly regardless of his opinion of whether Zuma did it or not. The NPA was supposed to allow the defendant to speak if they are bringing fresh charges which they are allowed to do (they are not allowed to rehash the same charges they dropped initially when they moved forward with indicting and convicting his financial adviser).

Some predict social unrest, economic turmoil, and a political mess if he goes to trial. Some believe he cannot receive a fair trial, and just because of that, the NPA should drop the case (forget about innocence or guilt). And then you’ve got a leader talking about killing for Zuma.

It’s a bit of a mess. And no matter what the judge decided both sides would have pressed on—the NPA can now try a third time to proceed correctly following the rule of law in which case the judge would then judge by merit before possibly indicting. Zuma’s team would probably also press on for a permanent stay from prosecution. And with so many threatening chaos if Zuma were prosecuted and sentenced, some believe it should be a consideration.

Others wanted a simple slap on the wrist as long as Zuma admitted and apologized. I’m not sure that would have happened. Either way, the judge ruled that

1. the proceedings were unconstitutional/unlawful because, according to the South African constitution, you must give the defendant chance to make representations. (this is the case if they were bringing a new case against him as they were supposed to do so)
2. and political interference played a large role in deciding to recharge Zuma
• the timing of the indictment (Dec 28, 2007) was right after the president (Mbeki) suffered a political defeat in Polokwane (remember Mbeki fired Zuma from the Deputy President position amidst accusations of corruption)
• Mr. Pikoli (former head of the NPA) was suspended just as he was pursuing charges on Zuma and Shabir Shaik (by the way, Pikoli said it was one of the toughest days of his life to have to go to a fellow-fighter in the struggle for freedom and tell the fellow-comrade that the NPA was charging him corruption)
• Ngcuka (head of Public Prosecutions at the time) was investigating both Zuma and Yengeni in the arms deal in which it seemed both had received bribe money. Well, Yengeni was found guilty, but they dropped the case against Zuma saying there was “prima facie evidence of corruption” but it wasn’t sufficient to win in court.

The NPA may again try to charge after allowing Zuma to make representation for his case. So we shall see. The saga continues.

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