NEWS & ANALYSIS

Sunday Times a pawn in a dirty political war

Musa Xulu replies to Mondli Makhanya's recent editorial on Jacob Zuma and the NPA

IT IS NOT ZUMA WHO MUST PROVE HIS INNOCENCE BUT RATHER THE STATE WHICH MUST PROVE HIS GUILT

I am neither a lawyer nor am I an expert on legal matters but one thing I can do expertly is to read. I read with aw a very poor and haphazardly written editorial by the Sunday Times newspaper's editor Mondli Makhanya. In his opinion piece duped article, Mr Makhanya claims that the duty is on Zuma to prove his innocence to the courts. He thus echoes the same misguided sentiments as has been expressed by the opposition parties.

But I ask them, since when has this duty been passed over to the accused? According to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996 the duty to prove guilt against an accused person rests with the state. The very constitution which Mondli claims to know since he continually makes reference to it - but clearly doesn't seem to know much about - states further that guilt must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. I wonder therefore as to why it is that an educated editor who is supposed to have support from his legal desk and also be guided by journalistic ethics before he runs a story would stoop so low as to misrepresent the constitution of the republic.

After reading his entire diatribe, I realised that Mondli is either dyslexic or he's been mandated to misinform the public. This is the only logical explanation or else he is blinded by hatred of the man whose unstoppable ascendancy to the highest throne in the land he has failed to halt despite numerous attempts to tarnish his image. I am inclined to go with the worst case scenario and suggest that there are sinister forces/elements that motivate him to deliberately misread the constitution? To start with, Chapter 2 of the Bill of Rights under Section 9 (3) states that, "the state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds ..." Further to this, Section 12 (1) states that,

"everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right
a) Not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause...

e) Not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way"

Mr Makhanya and his newspaper have violated all these fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution with their falsehood and crusade, slander plus scandalous articles over the past 9 years in their attempt to sway public opinion on Zuma's public standing, his integrity and thus jeopardise his chances of succeeding Mbeki in all respects.

Such has been their failure that instead of Zuma's support waning, it actually plummeted and this is what I suspect makes Mondli and his ilk to become so desperate and live true to the adage, "desperate times call for desperate measures". The constitution, under Section 35 (3) of the Bill of Rights, further and very unambiguously states that,

"Every accused person has a right to a fair trial, which includes the right
a) To be informed of the charge with sufficient detail to answer it...
c) To a public trial before an ordinary court...
d) To have a trial begin and conclude without unreasonable delay
h) To be presumed innocent, to remain silent and not to testify during the proceedings"

The state has clearly violated all the above rights to the extent that we don't think that Zuma will ever get a fair trial, whether he gets an impartial judge or not. They (NPA) chose, for instance, to try Zuma in a court of public opinion instead of a court of law after holding the off-the-record-press-briefing.

The NPA investigated him for a long time without giving him a charge sheet or indictment since when he was still holding a public office but of grave concern is that sensitive information was being continually leaked to the media, throughout this ordeal, to the effect that Zuma was being investigated. They in the process dragged Zuma's name through the mud and the case was deliberately prolonged over a nine year period without any sign that it would ever reach its judicial conclusion. Therefore, for Mondli Makhanya and others to suggest that Zuma has been the one using every legal loophole or excuse available is not only mischievous but also devious. He proved one thing though and that is that he is a desperate man who is trying very hard to impress whoever it is that is handling him.

In the same constitution, Section 35 (5) goes on to state that, "Evidence obtained in a manner that violates any right in the Bill of Rights must be excluded if the admission of that evidence would render the trial unfair or otherwise be detrimental to the administration of justice"

We all know of the infamous diary whose copies were obtained illegally but which the state tried to legitimise by going to Mauritius. The impending trial is tainted with an irregular application of the law, as was the case with the illegal raids where the client-attorney privilege was violated for the first time in the history of South African law. Where therefore does Mondli get his information to suggest that it was Zuma who's been "ducking and diving" in an effort to avoid facing up to the criminal charges levelled against him?

It is a sad day when editors become pawns in a dirty political war which they know nothing about but go to the extent of compromising the little integrity they still have left. To the powers that be, please expedite the implementation of the Media Appeals Tribunal so that devious characters like Mondli Makhanya can be sanctioned for abusing their offices. This tribunal is the only place where cases of abuse of the freedom of speech can be resolved once and for all because we can no longer accept having our intelligence being undermined by journalists and/or editors just because they can or have a platform to do so whilst censoring popular but differing views to their set agenda.

Musa Xulu is Head: Media & Communications, ANC Greater Johannesburg region. The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and he is solely responsible for them.

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