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Analysts say Zuma ruling nightmare for ANC, but may invite more votes
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09:30, January 14, 2009

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The latest court ruling against South Africa's presidential front-runner Jacob Zuma created a "nightmarish" situation for the ruling African National Congress (ANC), yet it could mobilize more votes for the party, analysts said on Tuesday.

"What you lose on the swings, you gain on the round-about," said political analyst Lawrence Schlemmer.

He was talking about the political implications of the judgment handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein on Monday, which ruled in favor of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) in Zuma's fraud and corruption case.

The SCA found that there was no legal obligation on the NDPP's part to invite Zuma to make representations in the case, effectively overturning a high court ruling last year that halted his prosecution.

"Certainly, in a formal sense, it (the SCA judgment) would be apolitical nightmare," said Schlemmer. "But this will activate ANC supporters again, particularly the youth wing, and lead to the kind of activity which will probably stimulate many of the younger rank and file supporters."

"It may even result in them getting a higher turnout in the election," Schlemmer said when interviewed by the South African Press Association (SAPA).

But this did not remove the ANC's woes resulting from their presidential candidate facing corruption charges.

"They face all sorts of problems... it may affect investor confidence, it will probably affect the inflow of capital from abroad. It may make it more difficult for them to govern but it doesn't mean to say they will get losses at the polls," said Schlemmer.

Professor Susan Booyens, a political analyst at the University of Witwatersrand, said the SCA judgment created difficulties for the ANC but it would still win a strong majority in general elections, albeit not a two thirds majority.

The case against Zuma has been dragging on since 2003, when the then prosecutor Bulelani Ngcuka said there was a prima facie case of corruption against him.

Zuma was eventually charged in 2005, after his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was convicted of corruption, a ruling which saw then President Thabo Mbeki dismiss Zuma as deputy president of the country.

The case was struck from the roll in 2006, but Zuma was re-charged in December 2007, days after he beat Mbeki in the hotly contested ANC leadership race.

The Pietermaritzburg High Court last September ruled that the 2007 decision to re-charge him was invalid, but this has now been overturned by the SCA, which means that Zuma must still face the charges.

"All of these factors combined to create a relative nightmare for the ANC," said Booyens. "This judgment contributes to a transition in the ANC, away from the liberation movement that everybody just adored, to a political party entrapped in a series of unfortunate events."

But the SCA judgment was not necessarily good news for the ANC breakaway party, the Congress of the People(Cope), created partly in protest against the Mbeki removal.

"It is potentially good news for Cope... but it depends how they handle it," said Booyens. "If strategically well used, they can gain more momentum to their side again."

Schlemmer added: "Probably, with the middle-class voters, it is good news for Cope."

Cope's youth wing, in its reaction to the judgment, said it was a "victory for the people of South Africa" and showed that the ANC was reckless in its decision to remove former president Mbeki from office.


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