I Have No Regret Dismissing Zuma’s Corruption Case – Judge Nicholson


The South African judge who discarded corruption charges laid against President Jacob Zuma in 2008 has reiterated that he “stands by his judgment”. We will recall that Judge Chris Nicholson’s controversial finding in Zuma’s case paved way for him [Zuma] to become South Africa’s president.

Judge Chris Nicholson, made this known when he responded to former President Thabo Mbeki’s recent newsletter on Facebook. In Mbeki’s newsletter, he accused Nicholas of acting out of self-will and criticized his findings, which he said was based on “political meddling”.

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“Incomprehensible” judgement was what Nicholas passed in 2008, said Mbeki In his newsletter. He postulated that Nicholson in his judgment gave “a judicial stamp of approval” of these allegations against him.

Mbeki’s newsletter reads in part:

“Judge Nicholson gave a judicial stamp of approval to an allegation that some had sustained for some time that I and others in government were part of a ‘political conspiracy’ which had interfered with the [National Prosecuting Authority] falsely to charge Jacob Zuma, an allegation which even the ANC [national executive committee] as a whole had rejected.”

“This was especially puzzling given that Nicholson was an experienced judge with 13 years of experience by 2008, having been appointed to the bench in 1995.”

Reacting, the South African Communist Party (SACP) branded Mbeki’s newsletter as “Mbeki’s continued factional obsession involving provocative attacks on the party’s General Secretary, Comrade Blade Nzimande and other ANC leaders.

Nicholson has retired five years ago. He was said to “belong to the crop of lawyers who were active in the difficult days”. He granted Zuma’s application to have corruption charges dismissed, saying it was clear there had been political interference in the case. Zuma was accused of money laundering, corruption and fraud.

However, following yesterday’s publication, Nicholas is still convinced that he never gave a wrong judgement. He said, “I stand by my judgment. I said what I believed was right.”

Attending to the case in 2008, Nicholson ruled that he was “not convinced that the applicant (Zuma) was incorrect when he averred political meddling in his prosecution.” He struck out National Prosecuting Authority’s decision to probe Zuma and ordered that legal costs be paid to Zuma.

In his judgment, He said: “The timing of the indictment by Mr [Mokotedi] Mpshe [the former director of public prosecutions] on December 28 2007, after the president [Mbeki] suffered a political defeat at Polokwane was most unfortunate. This factor, together with the suspension of Mr [Vusi] Pikoli [former head of the prosecuting authority], who was supposed to be independent and immune from executive interference, persuade me that the most plausible inference is that the baleful political influence was continuing.”

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Recounting his experience while the case lasted, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema [who was then a member of the ANC] said,  “Zuma used us big time.We were more than convinced that there was a political conspiracy against him. After the Nicholson judgment I had a discussion with Zuma where he said he was not ready to work with Mbeki as he believed Mbeki was involved.”

Malema also alleged that president Zuma [who was the ANC leader then]  instigated them to believe that “there was a political conspiracy against him.”

Zuma, having won the case, was virtually guaranteed the presidency in 2009 elections because of the ANC’s dominance. He said to his supporters who joyfully waited for them outside the court: “This is a lesson that we should never keep quiet when those in power break the law. I think the judgment is a serious reflection to those who are given authority and do not use it appropriately.”

Zuma’s supporters was said to have believed that he was the victim of a political witch-hunt by his rival, South African President Thabo Mbeki.