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A very rough journey


Many dark clouds were hanging over his head

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PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s nine years in the country’s highest office have proved to be a bumpy ride littered with many court battles.

He began his presidential tenure in 2009 after escaping two major cases that threatened his journey, from being deputy president to becoming the head of state.

One was that of his dealings with his “financial adviser”, businessman Schabir Shaik, which relates to payments that Shaik’s companies allegedly made to Zuma’s household.

In May 2005 Durban High Court Judge Hilary Squires sentenced Shaik to 15 years in prison on two counts of corruption and one of fraud.

“Even if regarded as loans (as claimed by the defence), the basis on which they were made would in our view constitute a benefit,” the judge said.

It had emerged that between 1995 and 2005, Shaik financed Zuma’s household, including paying school fees for his children, for overseas family trips, a mere R10 for a wash and vacuum for his car, petrol, as well as designer suits.

Shaik paid more than R4million to the family while his companies raked in many more millions through government tenders generated from the friendship with the then deputy president.

In 2006, 783 counts of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering were levelled against Zuma, but he successfully argued that they were politically motivated to block him from becoming president.

Some of the charges relate to the arms deal in 1999, which tainted the image of the ANC and that of Zuma.

Although the Seriti Commission found no evidence of corruption, an affidavit recently filed by politically-connected attorney Ajay Sooklal at the high court in Pretoria claimed that Zuma had requested him not to divulge to the commission that he had been receiving gifts, bribes and R500000 a year from French arms company Thales until 2009. The commission’s findings are currently being challenged in court.

There was also the spy tapes saga, involving intercepted private conversations between former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka and the head of the now defunct Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy, shortly before Zuma was elected as the new leader of the ANC.

In 2009, Ngcuka’s replacement, Mokotedi Mpshe, announced his decision to discontinue prosecution against Zuma.

The announcement was followed by the DA’s application to have Mpshe’s decision set aside, and three years later, the Supreme Court of Appeal declared that the DA had standing to review Mpshe’s decision.

Zuma’s efforts to challenge the DA’s bid fell flat, and late last year his lawyer conceded that Mpshe’s decision was irrational.

Last month, Zuma’s lawyers made a submission to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on why charges against him should not be reinstated.

Last year proved to be one of the worst years for the president, after a full bench of the high court in Pretoria ordered him to pay the legal costs from his own pocket for challenging former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s recommendations in her report into state capture.

Madonsela had recommended that Zuma appoint a commission of inquiry and that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng appoint a judge to head the inquiry.

However, Zuma wanted the court to set aside and review Madonsela’s recommendations, and said only he had the powers to appoint judges to head inquiries

Also last year, the same court relieved Zuma of the powers to appoint, suspend or remove the National Director of Public Prosecutions or someone in an acting capacity after it declared that the appointment of current NDPP Shaun Abrahams was invalid.

This, however, was not new to the president, as he had suffered a similar fate in 2012 when the court deemed that the appointment of the former head of the NDPP, Menzi Simelane, was invalid.

It’s not only Zuma’s presidential functions that have led him to court, as his personal conduct had also subjected him to the dock.

Three years before assuming office, the then deputy president faced a serious charge of raping a family friend, Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, then 31, at his home in 2005.

For the first time, the country would be introduced to Zuma’s questionable attitude towards HIV and sex.

It was also during this rape trial that Zuma cultivated himself loyal supporters from the ANC, some of whom were bused from KwaZulu-Natal to sing and dance outside the high court in Joburg.