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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, has dismissed as “nonsensical” accusations by DA leader Helen Zille that the postponement of judgment into the appeal hearing into the “spy tapes” was part of their “legal obfuscation and stonewalling”.
Zille accused Zuma’s legal team on Wednesday of using delaying tactics by appealing the Pretoria High Court’s ruling ordering the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to hand over the tapes to her party.
This came after the Johannesburg High Court postponed judgment into the appeal hearing to Friday next week.
The hearing was initially scheduled for Thursday, but it emerged on Wednesday that it had been postponed to next week at the request of Zuma’s lawyers.
Zille claimed the postponement was part of Zuma’s “continued cynical use of taxpayers’ money” to avoid handing over the tapes.
“After 10 years of legal obfuscation, prevarication, evasion and stonewalling, they have still not exhausted all their options,” Zille said.
Zuma faced up to 700 charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering before former NPA head Mokotedi Mpshe dropped them in 2009.
Zille said the DA expected Zuma’s legal team to continue their delaying tactics, even if the Johannesburg High Court refused his leave to appeal.
“There seems to be no end to the detours (Zuma’s) lawyers can take on behalf of clients who have a bottomless pit of money. If it weren’t for the South African taxpayer, Jacob Zuma would long since have had his day in the dock.”
Hulley admitted that the postponement was at his request, but hit back at Zille. He fell short of accusing her of ignorance.
“That’s nonsense. The fact is that our counsel has engaged the Supreme Court of Appeal, and as a matter of practice and ethics, they had to give us (the postponement),” Hulley explained.
“It’s (postponement) purely based on the Supreme Court of Appeal, as a matter of practice. It’s a practical issue. People are just looking for nonsense.”
Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj also dismissed Zille’s statements, saying they were merely part of “party politics”.
“It is the courts that stipulate the rules and not the president,” Maharaj said, speaking from Hong Kong.
The tapes are purportedly recordings of intercepted phone conversations between former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and then prosecutions head Bulelani Ngcuka.
The two are believed to have discussed, in the tapes, the timing of charges against Zuma in the context of the battle between him and then ANC president Thabo Mbeki for the leadership.
The Pretoria High Court earlier this month upheld a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal ordering the NPA to hand over the spy tapes to the DA. The court ordered the NPA to release the tapes within five days.
However, Hulley appealed against the ruling on the grounds that Judge Rami Mathopo of the Pretoria High Court had erred when he ruled that the NPA must produce the tapes.