How Stalingrad tactics won the day

Date: 07 Apr 2009
Jacob Zuma's advocate once famously compared the ANC president's legal strategy to one of World War II's most bloody battles. According to senior counsel Kemp J Kemp: "This is not a battle where you send a champion out and have a little fight and that's it - this is more like Stalingrad." Every aspect of the National Prosecuting Authority's prosecution of Zuma has been the object of unremitting legal opposition. Zuma's lawyers began their Stalingrad offensive by challenging the August, 2005, warrants that the Scorpions used to raid his and his attorneys' homes and offices. They further disputed the State's right to ask Mauritian authorities for the originals of more than a dozen documents used to convict Zuma's former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, of fraud and corruption. Zuma's legal team effectively stopped the NPA from compiling the evidence it needed to put Zuma on trial. Then, when the NPA asked for a postponement of its case against Zuma for about 15 months on the basis of these unresolved legal disputes, Zuma's lawyers called for the case to be struck from the court roll. Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Herbert Msimang agreed with them. That ruling put Zuma's prosecutors on the back foot, and it didn't take long before they slipped and fell. Each new ruling in the defence team's favour exacted a heavier toll. Judge Chris Nicholson's ruling that the case against Zuma was invalid cost Thabo Mbeki the presidency. By that time, Zuma's ascendancy to the throne was assured. By Karyn Maughan The Star 07/04/09e1