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NPA clouds JZ's dream

Published Dec 15, 2007

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- See our special feature on Polokwane 2007.

By Political Staff

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As Jacob Zuma headed for the ANC national conference in Polokwane on the eve of possibly his greatest political triumph, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Friday sent out a clear signal that they were still determined to prosecute him for corruption.

The NPA filed papers in the Johannesburg high court opposing Zuma's attempts to set aside an earlier decision to disallow key evidence gathered in raids on his lawyers and the Mauritius offices of French company, Thint, which profited from the controversial arms deal.

At the same time, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela embarked on a last-minute attempt to broker a truce between Zuma and President Thabo Mbeki.

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She spent one-and-a-half hours with Zuma at his home in Forest Town, Johannesburg, before dashing off to Lithuli House for a meeting with Mbeki.

It was unclear what came out of either meeting, but an earlier suggestion this week by Madikizela-Mandela that the status quo remain until 2009, when Zuma would take over the presidency of the country was rejected by both camps as unworkable.

Friday's court drama followed an earlier ruling that declared the warrants used in raids on Zuma's home and on the premises of his lawyers legal. The search-and-seizure warrants, granted by Judge President Bernard Ngoepe, formed part of the NPA's investigation into allegations of corruption, money laundering, fraud and related offences. The investigation also implicated, amongst others, Zuma, his jailed financial adviser Schabir Shaik and the France-based Thales group, of which Thint is the South African subsidiary.

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Zuma had argued that aspects of the investigation infringed on his right to dignity and his right to a fair trial. But according to the NPA's affidavit its prosecuting team had commenced a process aimed at finalising a draft indictment against Zuma and Thint based on the available evidence.

"This process of consultation, assessment of old and new evidence and drafting the indictment was completed on December 11, according to the answering affidavits," the NPA said. The State has asked that the application for leave to appeal by Zuma and Thint be dismissed with costs.

The conference in Polokwane looks set to be the most vitriolic showdown in the ANC's long history.

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Nominations for the ANC's top six leaders will start tomorrow without any real possibility that either side will agree to a compromise presidential candidate - and amidst unprecedented mistrust and mud-slinging in the ANC.

Zuma triumphed in the provincial nominations process, but some of those outcomes are likely to be reversed at Polokwane and neither side is predicting an easy victory.

The weekend will see Mbeki deliver his opening political report, which is expected to outline achievements within the country and beyond. It is expected that he will try to clear up the "misconceptions" that have dogged the party and the alliance.

Mbeki conceded in an interview with a weekly newspaper on Friday that the level of acrimony was unprecedented and said that it was a war of personalities rather than over contested policies.

The conference is also to consider an organisational report by ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe, which will examine the myriad of problems the ANC has experienced. These include: branches in disarray; lack of political education; the malfunction of many alliance structures; and factionalism and division at all tiers.

There has been much acrimony ahead of the conference. Earlier this week ANC Youth League president Fikile Mbalula slammed Finance Minister Trevor Manuel's open letter to Mo Shaik, an unofficial Zuma adviser; while Minister of Social Development Zola Skweyiya penned a letter of complaint to the NEC regarding Defence Minister's Mosiuoa Lekota disparaging comments against Zuma.

Delegates have been subjected to intense lobbying by both camps in the run-up to the conference, with claims that jobs, money and other incentives were being offered to delegates to switch alliances when the secret ballot for the leadership is held.

Meanwhile, at the University of Limpopo, a village of tents has sprung up to house the conference.

Last minute preparations were still under way yesterday as delegates began arriving.

A cordon of steel has been thrown around the area where the conference is to be held, with coils of barbed wire securing the perimeter and police vehicles travelling in convoys along the usually sleepy countryside roads.

Limpopo police said a "huge contingent" of police were on duty inside and outside the university and part of the N1 freeway would also be monitored.

- See our special feature on Polokwane 2007.

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