The dumping of JZ

Andrew Donaldson's free 'legal advice' to the ex-President now that his lawyers have left him


A PECULIAR item in one of the weekend fish-wraps. Despiqbal Survé’s Sunday Independent reports that Jacob Zuma’s legal team, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane and attorney Eric Mabuza, are dumping their client before his May 17 fraud and corruption trial “on matters of principle”.

Initial reaction here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) was one of bemusement. Surely a mistake. Lawyers? Principles? This is unusual. 

No reason was given when Mabuza’s law firm notified the Pietermaritzburg High Court on April 21 that they had withdrawn as Zuma’s attorneys. 

However, just the week before, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Accused Number One was not entitled to state funds to cover the cost of his trial and ordered him to pay back the R25-million he had already run up in his legal battles.

This is not chickenfeed, especially for a man fast running out of friends with deep pockets, and it wasn’t long before I came across a bogus-looking appeal for funding on social media: “Former President Zuma Support For Legal Costs,” it read, along with a Capitec bank account number. “Let’s support the father of Radical Economic Transformation, Free Education, and Land Expropriation Without Compensation.”

Apparently, there are a number of similar calls to bless the blesser. This has alarmed Mabuza and company. They complain they’re owed millions. Their client’s supporters, meanwhile, embark on these wildcat fundraising drives but still don’t give the lawyers any money. Not at all suspicious, you’d think. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Yet an unnamed source complains: “We are also not sure whether all the monies contributed and collected reached uBaba or maybe a fraction of it. Zuma’s name has been used by certain people to enrich themselves, millions of rands were collected in the name of fund-raising for uBaba’s legal fees but his lawyers haven’t been paid.”

Meanwhile, KwaZulu-Natal deputy judge president Isaac Madondo has written to Mabuza, ordering him to appear in court when the trial starts and explain why he’s withdrawing. 

   “In a criminal case proceedings,” Madondo reportedly told him, “the leave of the court to withdraw as attorney of record must be sought and obtained, upon a full motivation. It is accordingly required that you attend court on the day of the trial and formally ask for leave to withdraw with full reasons. Until the court grants you permission to withdraw, you will not be excused from attendance.”

This is an entirely reasonable position. Especially as everybody will be there. 

The National Prosecuting Authority has said that, as far as they and their 200 or so witnesses are concerned, it’s all systems go. “We are ready to proceed with the trial on the 17th of May,” NPA spokesman Sipho Ngwema has announced, “so that the accused can get the opportunity (*dry cough*) to clear his name.” 

Mabuza and company insist that the issue of non-payment is not why they’re pulling out. The apparent thinking here is that their client hadn’t paid them for years and they didn’t withdraw their services, so why should they do so now just because he’s still not paying them? They’re lawyers, for God’s sake, not leeches.

Instead, they’re withdrawing for ethical reasons.

Yet more unnamed sources, those with “intimate knowledge” of this farce, charge that “some of the former president’s allies who acted as gatekeepers [prevented] the lawyers from meeting Zuma alone, and in the process gave him bad legal advice”. 

Mabuza, it’s alleged, has not been able to communicate directly with his client, but only through an intermediary.

This is not ideal. As one “associate” with an interesting approach to metaphors put it: “Now we are sending uBaba to the slaughterhouse to be eaten alive and the NPA would be ready this time around because they know that Sikhakhane and Mabuza are no longer in Msholozi’s corner.”

What mystifies, though, is who exactly is in that corner. Readers will be familiar with this column’s interest in Carl Niehaus. Could it be, with all his skill at camouflage, that this RET champion has slipped undetected into a library somewhere for a week or two and is now an expert on jurisprudence?

After all, Carl and his comrades in the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association are the only “gatekeepers” we know of, playing silly soldiers and dozing under a gazebo outside the Nkandla compound.

Back in mid-February, you will recall, Carl issued a dire warning to all who would dare approach Zuma with a view to calling him to account for his behaviour: the MKMVA will do everything in its power to stop them.

“Our message to them is crystal clear,” he said, greatly shuddered of jowl. “Before you consider your insidious factional political project of attacking President Zuma, and try to arrest him, you will first have to face us. We as MKMVA will not allow you to further harass, humiliate, and even arrest one of the most illustrious commanders of MK. Enough is enough!”

Ten weeks later, and it seems that the architects of the “insidious factional political project” may have the upper hand. 

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has the party’s approval that secretary-general Ace “Accused Number Two” Magashule immediately step aside pending the outcome of his fraud and corruption matter, a dodgy business relating to a multi-million rand asbestos eradication tender.

But, according to Business Day, Magashule will not do so voluntarily. He’s not going down without a fight, and will instead force the party to suspend him.

The Sunday Times Daily reports that Magashule will then in all likelihood appeal that decision. However, Paul Mashatile, the treasurer-general, is already hard at work ahead of a national executive committee meeting this weekend, tinkering with the ANC’s appeal processes to deny Magashule such recourse.

All of this is very welcome. But we digress. If Accused Number One is not getting the legal advice he needs, he should consider JP Donleavy’s The Unexpurgated Code: A Complete Manual of Survival and Manners (1975). It is quite helpful when it comes to appearances before courts and investigating committees:

“Dress soberly in the current fashion and always wipe the dirty looks off your face. Avoid hand wrenching, lip licking and eye darting. At the very beginning of proceedings apologise for any involuntary tremors, facial tics, quakes or quavers. And if you must chew gum to quieten your nerves be sure in disposing of it, to stick this well under your chair or table. There is nothing worse than when squirming, your knee gets smeared with this viscous matter.

“Smile once in a while and don’t be afraid to laugh along with the committee especially when they are laughing at you. Remember fairness, if not forgiveness, is the hallmark of these sessions … It is always appreciated that no one is free of human fault but that some happen to be at certain times freer than others.”

It is the laughter, though, that I look forward to. Whether or not it will happen on May 17 is another matter. But it will come, it will come.

Election battles

Off to the polls on Thursday for another dreary local election on the mud island. Elves for both the Labour councillor and her Tory challenger have been stuffing my mailbox with manifestos and other bumf. There are no noticeable differences here. Both parties promise the same deliverables, and both suggest similar courses of action to get the local economy back on its feet after the lockdown, fill potholes, deal with parking problems, solve public transport hassles, fight litter louts, upgrade the parks and keep green spaces green and spacey

One almost wishes for the turbulence of home. Just over a week ago, for example, The Times alarmed readers with a report that the ANC was warning its members not to kill each other ahead of October 27 local elections as branch members battled to get on candidate lists for posts that offer lucrative opportunities for looting, bribery and patronage.

This follows the arrest of one Lucky Mbuzi in connection with the death of Mduduzi Madikizela, a rival Eastern Cape ward councillor candidate who was gunned down at home. Also in the province, ANC councillor Hluphekile Bobotyane has been charged with five murders after an alleged mob attack in which victims were burnt alive. Elsewhere, meetings in Mpumalanga have been disrupted by panga-wielding gatecrashers. In KZN, the newspaper reported, at least 90 government or party officials have been killed since 2015, most of them ANC members.

Back here, polls suggest that Labour are going to have a difficult time of it. This is despite the fact that Boris Johnson is a proven liar mired in a growing sleaze scandal regarding the runaway costs of refurbishing the Downing Street flat. Besides, Britain Zuma has survived worse scandals in recent months than his girlfriend’s expensive taste in wallpaper. The “Cash ’n’ Carrie” saga means little to the electorate. Politicians here no longer resign in disgrace. As the columnist Hugo Rifkind put it, “What do you think this is — 2018?”

The real excitement, of course, is north of the border, in Scotland. There, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP seems on track for a convincing victory, providing a platform to renew the party’s campaign for Scotland to leave the UK and rejoin the European Union. This is a space worth watching.

Superspreaders picnic

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor was in London this week to attend the G7 foreign and development ministerial meeting. On Tuesday evening she met with her Indian counterpart, external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, to discuss cooperative measures to tackle Covid-19 and address the economic crisis brought about by the pandemic. The next morning, Jaishanker tweeted that he had been exposed to possible Covid-positive people in the UK and is now self-isolating.

No word, at the time of writing, about Pandor’s status. Is she also self-isolating? Has she even been tested? One does wonder why she was in the UK in the first place. It’s not as if SA is a member of the G7 group of nations, or indeed if she had anything to offer as an observer. 

Mansions on the hill

Reports that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is set to generate profits of more than $6-billion this year have prompted speculation about where next for wily big pharma investors. The answer could be malaria.

Last month, it was reported that researches at the University of Oxford have developed the world’s most effective malaria vaccine, with it becoming the first to achieve the World Health Organization-specified 75 per cent efficacy goal. It’s now hoped that the vaccine can be approved for use within the next two years, building on the speed and lessons learned through the rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines.

This is good news. However, it’s taken decades to get here despite the fact that, with the exception of tuberculosis, malaria kills more people than any other communicable disease in the world. It’s not overly cynical to suggest that this tardiness is due to fact that the vast majority of cases take place in poor countries. In 2018, for example, there were 228 million cases of malaria worldwide resulting in an estimated 405 000 deaths. Roughly 93 per cent of  the cases and 94 per cent of deaths occurred in Africa.

Climate change has given the matter a sense of urgency. Global warming may have killed them in some areas, but it has also allowed mosquitoes to migrate to higher, once cooler areas where they previously couldn’t survive. Places where the rich folk live. Wallets out, then.