Mantashe slams Mpshe for comments to City Press

Statement issued by the African National Congress Secretary General November 18 2008


The ANC condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent media statements by the NPA Director Mokotedi Mpshe concerning ANC President Jacob Zuma and Judge Nicholson's ruling.

These statements clearly confirm once again that the NPA has cast aside all pretence of professionalism or political neutrality - it has come out in the open and has effectively admitted that it is pursuing a political vendetta against President Zuma. In an interview by City Press, 16 November 2008, Mpshe admitted as follows: "this trial( Jacob Zuma's corruption trial) was a political trial and was difficult for the NPA to handle."

This supports the ANC's longheld view that President Zuma was subjected to political persecution and that the NPA was used as a willing instrument in the violation of President Zuma's rights. Even more disturbing Mpshe has shown his utter contempt and disrespect for the rule of law by proclaiming that he would continue to hold that judge Nicholson is "wrong" regardless of the outcome of the NPA's pending appeal.

In an interview by City Press, 16 November 2008, Mpshe was asked a question as follows: "You can't ignore the political implications you're your decision to recharge Zuma will have. Nicholson has already said so in his judgment. How are you going to deal with it?"

He stated in response that: "If you ask me that question 14 years from now I'll still say Nicholson was wrong. Completely wrong. I don't foresee a stage where I am going to change my position on this one. He's wrong and that's what I told him. Having said that, the NPA can't operate as an island and ignore what is happening around us."

Mpshe's statement is ample evidence that he and the NPA have very little regard for the rule of law and for the rulings of our judiciary. Despite the admonition of Judge Nicholson, Mpse has committed a grave violation of his professional and legal duty as a prosecutor by allowing his judgment on the Zuma matter to be swayed by extraneous political considerations. He has admitted that much in his interview with City Press.

We urge our citizens to remember that Zuma, like every citizen has a constitutional right to a prosecution that is totally independent of political influence and which prosecutes fairly, consistently and without fear or favour to anyone.

It is a matter of record that Zuma has never asked for any special favours from anyone. President Zuma has always insisted on his right to equal treatment, has subjected himself to the authority of our courts at all levels and has always abided by the rulings of the courts. This is in sharp contrast to Mpshe's statements that he would forever insist that Judge Nicholson was wrong even "14 years from now" which means he would insist on holding that position regardless of the outcome of the appeal the NPA is currently pursuing. A more serious contempt of court and rule of law can scarcely be imagined!

Sadly, Mpshe's avowed disregard for the rule of law and political grandstanding are not isolated incidents. They reflect a pattern of behaviour on the part of the NPA which has already been condemned by the courts and the Khamphepe Commission. Mpshe has embarked on a deliberate course of conduct in pursuit of his media celebrity status all in flagrant disregard for the code of ethics prohibiting prosecutors from making public statements or issuing press releases that have a substantial likelihood of prejudicing a defendant's right to a fair trial.

We remind all law-abiding South Africans that comments to the media have no functional tie to the judicial process just because they are made by a prosecutor. Accordingly, a prosecutor has a duty of remaining neutral and refraining from prejudicing a criminal proceeding. He must not attempt to mislead our people or sway public opinion, by making comments to the public or otherwise.

Such requirements are necessary because any pre-trial publicity caused by a prosecutor that attacks the accused can be a severe form of punishment without due process of law. In the context of the case involving President Zuma, it is very clear that Mpshe's comments are aimed at influencing and affecting the outcome of the forthcoming general elections in our country. Nothing can undermine the rule of law more than a prosecutor's admission that its decisions to prosecute would be arrived at or based on political considerations, or influence, and that Judge Nicholson's ruling will be disregarded as wrong "even 14 years from now."

In fact, Mpshe's media statement flies in the face of Judge Nicholson's admonition to the NPA - the NPA's prosecution policy, as well as the code and directives "emphasise very clearly that statements should not be made to the media before a prosecution is instituted." At the moment, a court of law has dismissed the NPA's case against Zuma although the NPA is pursuing an appeal in that matter. Accordingly, Mpshe's wilful disregard of the court rulings, code of ethics for prosecutors and his self-serving statements that President Zuma remains "an accused" deserve condemnation. Mpshe's speculation that Zuma will be president by the time the NPA goes to court are self-serving, politically motivated, unprofessional and deserving of the most serious condemnation by all law-abiding persons.

The ANC wishes to reassure all our citizens that it remains deeply committed to upholding and defending the rule of law and protecting the constitutional rights of all our citizens, regardless of race, gender, political affiliation, economic or social status. The ANC shall remain vigilant to ensure that state institutions such as the NPA do not continue to be abused to fight partisan political battles.

Statement issued by Gwede Mantashe, African National Congress Secretary General, November 18 2008