Wednesday, 01 October 2008

Mbeki fights back

23/09/2008 07:27  - (SA) 

Philip de Bruin, Beeld

Johannesburg - President Thabo Mbeki has ushered in a new round in the fight against the Zuma camp in the ANC, with an urgent appeal to the Constitutional Court.

Mbeki wants to have "remarks made in passing" by Judge Chris Nicholson that he had meddled in Jacob Zuma's prosecution, set aside.

On Monday, experts on the Constitution said it was a clear indication that Mbeki "had not thrown in the towel" and that "anyone who thinks that the fight between Mbeki and Zuma was a thing of the past, lives in a fool's paradise".

The passing remarks to which Mbeki refers in his affidavit to Chief Judge Pius Langa, are those made by Nicholson in his ruling in the Pietermaritzburg High Court earlier this month.

Nicholson ruled that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had not given Zuma the opportunity to make representations before deciding to charge him again for fraud and corruption, amongst other things.

At that stage Zuma had just been elected ANC president in Mbeki's place.

Serious allegations

Mbeki says in the affidavit that, instead of focusing on the issue at hand, Nicholson went much further of his own accord, saying in passing that Mbeki and the ministers serving or having served with him, had meddled in the NPA's decision to prosecute Zuma.

Mbeki says these are serious allegations against him, not only in his personal capacity, but also as head of state, and they had resulted in him having to resign.

He argues that Nicholson had no right to make remarks of this nature without giving him and the relevant ministers the opportunity to state their case in court.

Mbeki states that this has affected his constitutional rights of human dignity and access to the courts. He argues that he should be given direct access to the Constitutional Court in order to have the "false" allegations set aside.

As Nicholson's remarks were not court orders, an appeal cannot be lodged against them in a Court of Appeal. Only the Constitutional Court now has the power to intervene, Mbeki argues.

Mbeki 'has strong chance of success'

Professor Marinus Wiechers, former law professor at Unisa and an expert on the constitution, thinks Mbeki has a "very strong chance" of success.

"I was astounded when I heard Judge Nicholson make his statements on Mbeki and the executive. That was not the legal issue he was required to rule on. I thought he should have let it go.

"One thing is certain: Mbeki's appeal is proving wrong all those who thought he had gone quietly, as Sunday night's dignified speech on TV could have indicated.

"On the contrary, he is clearly ready for battle, and upon close examination, Monday's appeal is nothing other than a veiled warning to Zuma that the Mbeki-Zuma fight is far from over."

Professor Tom Coetzee, former law professor at North West University's Potchefstroom campus, said he considered Nicholson's statements on political meddling in the Zuma prosecution as "neither relevant, nor fair".

"I was astonished. The Constitutional Court's ruling will be groundbreaking. Mbeki is taking the right route. No one should underestimate his intelligence."


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