Monday, April 6, 2009

South African prosecutors drop case against Zuma/Beshir personality cult grips Khartoum

PRETORIA, South Africa – Prosecutors dropped their corruption case Monday against Jacob Zuma, clearing the way for him to become South Africa's next president but leaving behind questions that could haunt the next government.
Zuma, a colorful character and well-known champion of the poor, is the presidential candidate for the governing African National Congress in April 22 elections. He is almost certain to win given the party's dominance.
Hundreds of Zuma supporters reveled in the streets after prosecutors said they would not pursue — now or in the future — accusations Zuma accepted bribes to thwart an investigation into wrongdoing by a French arms company involved in a massive weapons deal in the late 1990s.
But prosecutors said the withdrawal had nothing to do with Zuma's guilt or innocence. They claimed to have a strong case, and said it was withdrawn because of prosecutorial misconduct. They noted that others could file civil cases, an option that may be pursued by opposition parties who decried Monday's announcement.
Zuma did not comment Monday, but scheduled a news conference for Tuesday in Durban, where he was to appear in court for the charges to be formally dropped.
Reactions to the decision highlighted the issues that remain as the country's fledgling democracy attempts to move forward.
Gwede Mantashe, the ANC's secretary general, called Monday's decision "a victory for the rule of law, decency and common sense," and told reporters that Zuma should now be seen as free of suspicion.
"There are no allegations" against Zuma, Mantashe said at ANC headquarters. "They have been withdrawn this morning by the people who laid the charges."
The presidential candidate for COPE, a recently formed political party that broke away from the ANC, countered saying prosecutors should have gone forward with the case.
"We still have not heard about the merits or the demerits of the case against Mr. Zuma. The South African people want to know: Is he innocent or is he guilty?" COPE's Mvume Dandala said.
Mokotedi Mpshe, acting director of public prosecutions, said Monday that key prosecutors had abused their powers by trying to time the announcement of charges against the 66-year-old former guerrilla leader to a key ANC conference in late 2007, presumably to undermine his bid to become party president.
Zuma won the leadership race at that conference, and two days later Mpshe said he had enough evidence to try Zuma. On Monday, Mpshe said he had been unaware in 2007 of attempts to manipulate the case.
"An intolerable abuse of process has occurred which requires discontinuation of the prosecution," Mpshe said at a packed news conference that was broadcast live nationwide.
Mpshe's decision came after Zuma's legal team brought him taped phone conversations between prosecutors discussing the announcement timing. It was unclear how Zuma's team obtained the recordings, but Mpshe said prosecutors determined they were authentic.
Even before Monday's decision, the accusations that Zuma had taken a $55,600 (500,000-rand) bribe to protect a French arms company had not appeared to hurt Zuma among his base — impoverished black South Africans who embrace him as a man they believe understands their struggle.
Support was not even affected by rape charges in 2006, which ended in Zuma's acquittal. In that case, he outraged AIDS activists by testifying that he had unprotected, consensual sex with the HIV-positive woman and then took a shower in the belief that it would protect him from the virus.
Monday's news was greeted with an outpouring of joy and Zuma supporters danced through the streets of downtown Johannesburg, while car horns blared and whistles shrieked. Hundreds waved ANC flags in a downtown square, dancing and singing "Bring Me My Machine Gun," the anti-apartheid song that has become Zuma's trademark.
"I'm very happy for the decision, hoping that this gives our president what he needs for us to go forward," said Victress Iwabi, an ANC town councilor. "I think under Zuma people will have decent work, free and quality education, quality health care for all. And we are going to defeat crime."
Former President Thabo Mbeki fired Zuma as his deputy because of the corruption scandal, but Zuma bounced back. The Zuma-led ANC forced Mbeki to resign as national president last September.
Prosecutors said Monday they had found no evidence Mbeki was behind the attempt to manipulate the Zuma case. But Zuma allies called for an investigation into the former president's possible involvement. Mbeki had no comment, spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said.
Adam Habib, a political analyst at the University of Johannesburg, called on Zuma to "come clean with the nation" about the corruption case.
"If he does not, not only does he taint the image of his own administration, but the image of his country as well," Habib said.
Neren Rau, chief executive of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said investors needed to have confidence in the rule of law in South Africa, and for that the prosecutors' office "must be perceived as independent, above reproach and free of the perception that it offers political solutions."


Zuma is a typical African Politician. He is a Murderer, has murdered entire families, He's a Rapist, and is a ruthless mobster.

How can we have someone like Jacob Zuma run a country, if he has been in court for crimnal cases. If this was anyother country, they wouldn't have a leader like this. This just shows us is that you can get away with crime.

Bashir personality cult grips Khartoum

KHARTOUM (AFP) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir beams from billboards, T-shirts and baseball caps as pictures of the defiant African leader wanted for war crimes in Darfur mushroom across Khartoum.
Once rare portraits of the soldier who grabbed power in a bloodless coup 20 years ago have sprouted in the capital since March 4, the day the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest.
Giant posters showing the 65-year-old leader of Africa's largest country clad in full military regalia can now be seen everywhere since the court accused him of war crimes and crimes against humanity in war-torn Darfur.
And with general and presidential elections due in February 2010, it appears that Bashir has finally succumbed to the traditional temptation of presidential iconography as he bids for political survival.
Since early last month, Bashir has been on the warpath to rally support against the ICC warrant -- the first ever to target a sitting head of state.
He has delivered fiery speeches, made multiple television appearances, gone on trips to the four corners of Sudan and also travelled abroad several times in clear defiance of the international court.
Pictures of the president accompanied by the slogan "All with you, Bashir" are distributed at rallies to which ordinary citizens and supporters of his National Congress Party (NCP) are bused in.
Bashir, who often punctuates his speeches by jabbing the air with his trademark walking stick and doing a little dance, has addressed Darfuris, soldiers, tribal chiefs and even donned a traditional feathered headpiece of Southern Sudanese chiefs.
He began this furious pace more akin to that of a campaigning candidate even before Sudan formally announced on April 2 that it will stage its first general election in 24 years next February.
The elections, which will see Sudanese vote for both their president and the national assembly, will be crucial to Beshir's political future.
"The electoral process starts this April and will finish in February 2010," Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, deputy head of the electoral commission, told AFP.
Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended Sudan's decades-long civil war between north and south, the elections should have taken place this year. But they were postponed over delays in census results.
"The president is not campaigning for the next elections. What you see is a response to the decision by the ICC," Mandoor al-Mahdi, NCP political secretary, told AFP.
"But the ICC has created a situation which has made the president more popular... and we feel that the conditions are more favourable than before" for his re-election, Mahdi added.
A defiant Bashir recently even went as far as "thanking" the ICC for accusing him, since the court's move enabled him to bolster his support base.
Sudan does not recognise the ICC and refuses to hand over its citizens, but this policy could change under a new government.
"They (the NCP) would like a quick election and a quick victory" in order to cement Beshir's position after the ICC decision, said one Western diplomat who asked to remain anonymous.
But he also added that despite mass rallies in support of the president, "they would have to cheat to win the elections."
The last general election in April 1986 saw a victory for the Umma party of Sadiq al-Mehdi, whose three-year-old democratically elected government was overthrown in the 1989 coup that brought Beshir to power.
Beshir secured 87 percent of the votes in the 2000 presidential election, which were considered a farce by opposition parties despite promises by the president of "free elections."
In next year's polls, the Sudanese people will also vote for the head of the semi-autonomous south, the South Sudanese parliament and local governors.
Holding the vote in Darfur where a deadly conflict has raged since 2003 will take a great deal of "political will" amid great insecurity, according to a study published last month by the United States Institute of Peace.
The ICC accuses Beshir of criminal responsibility for "exterminating, raping and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians" in Darfur, where the United Nations says the conflict has cost 300,000 lives.
Sudan puts the death toll from the six-year war at 10,000.
Sudan analyst Alex de Waal has described Beshir, who joined the military at a young age, as "intensely proud."
"When he feels humiliated, he is prone to angry outbursts marked by extreme rhetorical excess. His language becomes replete with exhortations to avenge insult and betrayal, and crush the cowards and traitors."


What can I say that I haven't already????

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