No longer at ease
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) rejected Shaik’s appeal against an earlier conviction on charges of corruption and fraud on Monday, giving the former businessman 48 hours to report to Durban’s Westview Prison to start a 15-year jail sentence.
The SCA said Shaik and Zuma had had a “sustained corrupt relationship”, echoing the ruling made by Judge Hillary Squires last year.
With the corrupt link between Zuma and Shaik now confirmed, the Supreme Court verdict has left Zuma firmly in the spotlight and awaiting the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)’s next move on his case.
Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Herbert Msimang scrapped the corruption case against Zuma off the High Court roll in September, ruling that the prosecution had failed to make a convincing case against the ANC deputy president.
NPA spokesperson Makhosini Nkosi said at the time the NPA would take the time after Judge Msimang’s ruling to strengthen its case against Zuma and to wait for the ruling in Shaik’s appeal.
Last week, the NPA moved a step closer to re-submitting its case against Zuma.
NPA spokesperson Makhosini Nkosi, who is resigning from his post citing pressure from the Zuma case, said Public Prosecutions director Vusi Pikoli would make the final decision on how and when the prosecution of Zuma would proceed, considering the fresh turn of events.
The NPA would also be eager to avoid the bungling that led to the case against Zuma being thrown out in September.
State advocate Billy Downing told a South African daily that the verdict on Shaik’s appeal was “one of the things we have been waiting for”.
However, it is the SCA’s decision that Zuma did have a corrupt relationship with Shaik that the ANC deputy president is likely to be worried about most.
Since his corruption case was thrown out of court, Zuma has sought to spruce up his image to make a convincing candidate for the party and as the country’s next president.
He resumed his duties as ANC deputy president with renewed vigour and has carried the ANC and government’s anti-corruption mantle with a passion.
However, political analysts are sceptical whether this will be enough to save his presidential ambitions after the latest Supreme Court ruling.
“There can be no doubt that the decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal will have some effect on Jacob Zuma. The whole case against him has hinged on whether or not he had a corrupt relationship with Shaik and the court has confirmed that twice.
“This has added potency considering that he (Zuma) has of late sought to push the fight against corruption as part of his campaign to clean up his own image,” political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said.
Other observers believe Zuma’s political career could be saved by a role as kingmaker and not presidential office bearer.
In the wake of the SCA judgment, Zuma’s supporters have stuck behind him, saying the ruling did not mean the Zuma was guilty.
“No court has found the ANC deputy president guilty of any wrongdoing,” the ANC Youth League said.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) commented: “To suggest that the dismissal of the Shaik appeal means Zuma must automatically now be considered guilty and be prosecuted, amounts to a malicious witchhunt.”
Zuma himself was in Europe when the SCA passed its judgment, and was set to decide on whether or not to comment on the verdict upon his return.