By Amy Musgrave and Moipone Malefane

Deputy President Jacob Zuma has accused the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions of finding him guilty of corruption linked to the country's arms deal without having the necessary evidence.

"No matter what the NDPP says, there can only be one reason I am not being charged; there is no case against me. I know this, and so does the NDPP," Zuma said on Sunday.

Ngcuka announced on Saturday that Zuma would not be prosecuted, despite indications that there may be a corruption case for him to answer to. The decision was taken in spite of a recommendation by the investigating team that Zuma be criminally charged.

"We have concluded that, whilst there is a prima facie case of corruption against the deputy president, our prospects of success are not strong enough," Ngcuka said. "That means that we are not sure if we have a winnable case. Accordingly, we have decided not to prosecute the deputy president."

Zuma has repeatedly rejected allegations that he tried to solicit a R500 000 bribe from Alain Thetard, the former southern African head of French arms company Thomson CSF.

The Scorpions has probed claims for the past two years of corruption flowing from the Nkobi Group's acquisition of shareholding in African Defence Systems (ADS), and Zuma's role therein.

Zuma's financial advisor Schabir Shaik was a director of the Nkobi group of companies, which had shares in Thomson CSF. Thomson, in turn, had shares in ADS.

The decision not to prosecute could be reviewed should new evidence arise.

Zuma said on Sunday Ngcuka's statement was equivalent to a judgment against him, after a long trial by media.

"The purpose of the latest public announcement is to leave a cloud hanging over my integrity. The hallowed principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty has been completely ignored."

He said he had always questioned the methods and length of time the probe had taken, and had called upon investigators to take him to court if they believed that had a case against him.

"I now question the manner in which the investigation has been 'concluded'."

He said he had serious reservations about the public utterances made on Saturday. The NDPP had produced a statement that contained serious innuendos.

"He (Ngcuka) has declined to prosecute, indicating that they accept that there is no case to answer.

"At the same time, the country has been told by the National Director that there is a prima facie case of corruption against me, based on circumstantial evidence."

Zuma said Ngcuka had admitted that the alleged evidence related to correspondence about him.

"None of it was written by me, received by me or addressed to me. The investigation was apparently initiated after receipt of an encrypted fax, which originated in French and was translated into English. I have never seen the French version of the alleged fax and do not know whether it really exists."

Zuma said his lawyers had asked public prosecutions in a letter on August 7 for handwritten and typed copies of the original French documents. They were not provided.

As a result, once again, his lawyers had to invoke the Promotion of Access to Information Act, and to date there has been no response.

"I am forced to continue to question the real motives of the investigation and the manner of its conclusion by the NDPP."

"The Minister of Justice also appeared on national television on Saturday 23 August, and told the nation it was a "sad moment" that the investigators have concluded that I have a case to answer. What is this case? Where should I answer it?"

He said he intended taking the matter further and would consult with his lawyers.

There was mixed political reaction to the decision not to prosecute Zuma, with most parties calling for his head.

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille warned that she would consult her attorney with the possibility of legally challenging the decision.

"The decision not to prosecute Deputy President Zuma has shocked me especially since the Scorpion's head Bulelani Ngcuka has publicly confirmed that there is prima facie evidence implicating him in criminal activity.

"This form of selective justice is typical of the government," De Lille said.

In 1999 De Lille, who was a Pan Africanist Congress MP at the time, called for an investigation into claims that senior African National Congress politicians involved in the arms deal had taken kickbacks.

She said that since then she has had to face ridicule, insults and even death threats and was told that there was no prima facie evidence.

"Now we find there is prima facie evidence and yet there is no prosecution. I intend consulting my attorney in order to consider the appropriate action to take."

Democratic Alliance chief whip Douglas Gibson called for Zuma's resignation.

"The deputy president is fatally wounded and he should stand down. He surely has no prospect of succeeding to the Presidency and the ANC will no doubt drop him at the next election.

"He should protect the dignity and the standing of his office by resigning now before there are further humiliations," he said.

Gibson said the matter was of over-riding public importance and he would approach the speaker for a debate when the National Assembly reassembled next week.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said the decision smacked of political pressure from the ANC, President Thabo Mbeki and his Cabinet.

"It is clear that Zuma's saga is causing the ANC a lot of political damage especially in light of next year's general elections," he told Sapa.

Holomisa said Ngcuka was confusing the public because he agreed that there was a bona fide case of corruption against Zuma.

"In a nutshell, he says to the public we will not prosecute Zuma, on the other hand he is telling us that the deputy president is corrupt.

"Bulelani has done a lot of damage to Zuma which will hang over his head for the next decade because we will view him as a corrupt official," he said.

The PAC said Zuma should be given the chance to clear his name.

PAC president Motsoko Pheko said his party questioned why Ngcuka and Justice Minister Penuell Maduna were not giving the justice system the opportunity to clear Zuma once and for all.

"Why is there prima facie of corruption on one hand and yet the same case is unwinnable?

"There is too much interference with the work of the judiciary by sections of the justice system in our country. This is endangering democracy," he said.

Pheko pleaded with the Scorpions not to spoil the good work it had done by damaging the names of citizens through the media.

"The media is not the judiciary of this country," he said.

The Inkatha Freedom Party's Gavin Woods called on Mbeki to convene a meeting with relevant parties to find ways of dealing with the outstanding questions and controversies surrounding the country's arms deal.

"As the situation serves no one's interest, the IFP asks the president... to consider calling together all aggrieved, affected and relevant knowledgeable parties in order to discuss finding ways of dealing with the outstanding questions, intrigues and controversies which continue to surround the arms deal - this with a view towards doing what might be necessary to close the door on this ugly chapter in a more considered, honest and dignified way than has thus far been attempted."

He said the IFP appreciated that charges of a criminal nature needed to be supported by substantial evidence. At this stage the party accepted the assessment by the NDPP that existing evidence was insufficiently conclusive to proceed against Zuma.

"However given the strength of the circumstantial evidence which gave rise to allegations of Mr Zuma having solicited a bribe from Thompson CSF in order to discourage the investigation into the arms deal, and the fact that he indeed seemed to try and do so by way of his strange and hostile communication with the then chairperson of Parliaments Standing Committee on Public Accounts, it remains difficult to reconcile the decision of the NDPP to what is ostensibly the truth of the matter," he said.

The ANC Youth League accused the Scorpions of still baying for Zuma's blood.

"Whilst the Scorpions agree that they don't have a case against the deputy president, they still insist that he is guilty and that they will continue to bid for his blood," ANCYL president Malusi Gigaba said.

He said the league was flabbergasted by yet another posture pulled by the Scorpions in its "desperate endeavour" to besmirch the image of Zuma, thus creating doubts about the credibility of the ANC leadership.

"What surprises the ANCYL is the fact that courts are the only bodies that have a right to judge whether any citizen of this country is guilty or not.

"The trial of deputy president by Scorpions by the media with editors as the bench is really an indictment of our justice system," he said.

On Saturday ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama said his party accepted and supported the decision not to prosecute Zuma.

He said it was a victory for South Africa's democracy and the justice system that had to be respected. - Sapa

  • Shaik will be charged with corruption, fraud, theft of company assets, tax evasion and reckless trading. He was expected to appear in the Durban Magistrate's Court on Monday.