Jacob Zuma, President of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa's ruling party, suddenly faces an uncertain future after the Supreme Court of Appeal seriously questioned a previous ruling of political meddling in the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) bribery case against him.

The NPA appealed against Judge Nicholson's ruling in September this year, who accused Thabo Mbeki, who was still president of the country, of political meddling in their case. This forced Mbeki to resign as president and triggered the breakaway party, Congress of the People (Cope) to be formed.

Zuma's advocate took a grilling in the Appeal Court in Bloemfontein last Friday from a full bench of five judges. Their line of questioning clearly indicated that they were not happy with Judge Nicholson's verdict.

Should the NPA win the appeal, Zuma will be running for president of South Africa in the 2009 general election while facing criminal charges. Zuma faces more than 700 charges against him which include bribery, corruption, racketeering, fraud and tax evasion related to the infamous multi-billion rand arms deal.

The verdict is expected on January 12 next year. Zuma has indicated he will appeal against an unfavourable judgment.

If this is not enough, the Cope headache remains one of Zuma's main ailments. He has admitted that a coalition between the breakaway party and the Democratic Alliance, South Africa's second biggest party, is a source of concern to him.

Although a number of opinion polls have indicated that Cope is not a significant threat to the ANC yet, their real strength will be tested in 42 municipal by-elections to be held tomorrow. Cope candidates will stand as independent candidates while their party is not registered yet.

The ever-present threat of Cope got the ANC embroiled in yet two more court cases. Recently, they forced the independent Electoral Commission not to publish the electoral list for the by-elections after they failed to meet the deadline for eight of their candidates.

Then there is still the legal battle to prevent Cope from using the name the ANC claims theirs. The name 'Congress of the People' was used by the ANC to describe the 1955 Kliptown Congress of the People where the ANC freedom charter was adopted. Should the ANC win the case, Cope will have to find a new name before their official launch on December 16.

The war of words between the two parties has certainly led to some colourful exchanges over the last few weeks. Office bearers of the ANC referred to the leaders of Cope as "dogs, snakes and cockroaches" while two senior members of Cope claimed that with Zuma in charge, "rape will be made official" and the country will then have a leader who says "I will rape and shower".

This alludes to Zuma's rape charge from which he was acquitted but never seemed to have lived down his statement in court that 'he showered' after he had unprotected sex with his HIV positive cousin.

Cope's steering committee later apologised to Zuma about the rapist comments. The ANC has yet to apologise to Cope for calling their members dogs, snakes and cockroaches. Julius Malema, of "'we will kill for Zuma" fame and President of the ANC Youth League, also climbed into Cope, calling their leader Mbhazima Shilowa an "irresponsible father and security guard", referring to his profession before he entered politics. Last week, Malema went the extra mile to humbly apologise in the media for his "we will kill for Zuma" statement.

Hardly done

But Malema was hardly done when two members of his Sedibeng branch said in an interview with Al Jazeera international news that leaders of Cope behave like cockroaches and "should be killed". In ANC-speak a cockroach is clearly of lower order than a dog and a snake and has no right to live.

Dr Brigalia Bam, the poll panel chairperson, organised a pre-election conference in Durban on November 25 for parties presented in parliament. She announced at the conference that all parties in the next election will be asked to sign an electoral code of conduct which aims to create an environment for a fair election.

While all this is going on, a quiet debate is underway whether the incumbent president Kgalema Motlanthe, who replaced Mbeki, would not be a better candidate than Zuma. Mothlante was the only one speaking out against Malema's outbursts while Zuma never reprimanded him. Mothlante's dignified approach to any crises is not going unnoticed.

Zuma is known for his antics on stage and zealous performer of the exuberant toy-toy dance. A political dance of another kind is awaiting him in the months leading up to the election. He needs to master some tricky steps if he wants to stay the lead dancer.

Anthony Penderis is a former Dubai expatriate who started his own political party, A Party, to take part in the 2009 General Election in South Africa.

Your comments

Well written with all the facts clearly in place.
Cheryl Borcher
Cape Town,South Africa
Posted: December 09, 2008, 13:31

I think it is a sad reality that the political landscape in South Africa is about to change, with the emergence of an opposition party. Only now will we hopefully see some accountability on the part of our government. However, comments made by the ANC, compared to those of the Zanu-PF party is similar to those of Robert Mugabe.
Cape Town,South Africa
Posted: December 09, 2008, 09:19