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Cape Town -
Documents that suggest divisions in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) over dropping corruption and other charges against President Jacob Zuma were irrelevant and not entirely new, say some analysts.
They were responding to a Sunday Times report on how the country’s top prosecutors were in favour of going ahead with the case against Zuma and had dismissed the “spy tapes”, which suggested political interference in his case.
The Sunday Times said more than 300 pages of internal e-mails, memos and minutes of meetings had been leaked to it.
The documents reveal for the first time that the Scorpions team prosecuting Zuma believed Zuma had been trying to “blackmail” them into dropping the charges by threatening to release information on the tapes, the paper reported.
A court bid by the NPA to prevent the Sunday Times from publishing its report failed.
Political analyst Professor Steven Friedman said: “As far as I’m concerned the information that appeared in the Sunday Times is irrelevant.
“The NPA’s decision (to try prevent the story from being published) is purely sensitive. Nothing that appeared in the paper has not been known.”
Friedman said he could only assume the NPA was being sensitive because the leaked documents suggested the prosecuting authority was divided.
“They feel any kinds of suggestions that they’re divided are a problem,” said Friedman.
Political analyst Professor Somadoda Fikeni said parts of the information were generally known.
The information could be vital to other members of the ANC leading up to the party’s elective conference in Mangaung in less than a month’s time.
“Leading to Mangaung they would like as much as possible to see a trend of what has been non-compliance with the law,” Fikeni said.
Opposition parties’ backing for a motion of no confidence in Zuma – which the ANC has stonewalled – was part of this. “It’s highlighting a trend. Some would love to see him [Zuma] not coming back after Mangaung,” said Fikeni.
He said the NPA was worried that the leaked information would re-open the debate on whether it was valid to withdraw the charges. But the DA believes the leaking of the documents “only bolster the DA’s case that the decision [to drop charges against Zuma] needs to be reviewed”.
Now that they were in the public domain the NPA should hand them over to its legal team, said DA federal executive chairman James Selfe.
“The public has a right to know why the decision was taken to drop the 783 counts of racketeering, fraud, corruption and money laundering against President Jacob Zuma. We deserve to know whether this decision was rational and based on a sound legal opinion … that is what we will be asking the court to determine,” said Selfe.
The Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in March that the decision to drop charges was reviewable. It ordered the NPA to hand over any material relevant to the decision – excluding written representations made on behalf of Zuma.
The DA’s lawyers have been trying to get the documents fever since. Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, is refusing to hand a transcript of the tapes n the basis that they fall within the confidentiality agreement.