Pretoria- President Jacob Zuma’s second term in office is set for a start almost as rocky as his first, with the corruption charges that were dropped shortly before his election in 2009 refusing to go away.
A judicial review of the prosecuting authority’s decision to drop the charges could be under way before the end of the year – finally throwing the full reasoning behind the decision into the open and making life very uncomfortable for Zuma.
On Friday, the president’s legal team made the stunning concession in the Supreme Court of Appeal that there was no basis for it to withhold the so-called spy tapes, after years of blocking a DA bid to have them released.
Kemp J Kemp, for Zuma, also agreed to consult the opposition party in identifying a legal person – a senior counsel or retired judge – to go through the internal documents the NPA relied on in making its decision and decide which parts of these should be released. Only those parts of the “record of decision” that form part of the president’s confidential submissions to the NPA during his attempts to persuade it to drop the charges may be withheld.
Should the parties reach an agreement – which they must submit to the Supreme Court of Appeal next Friday – it will be made an order of the court, compelling the NPA to release the spy tapes and the documents as determined by the legal figure to the DA.
NPA spokesman Nathi Mncube said it would abide by the judgment.
In this case, the material must be handed to the DA’s lawyer and, if there is disagreement over which parts are confidential, a judge will make a final determination in chambers as to what must be released.
Either way, the drawn-out battle over the spy tapes is nearing its climax and the next phase – the judicial review in which the DA is seeking to have the NPA’s decision set aside – will commence in earnest.
Not only does this contain the threat of the corruption charges being reinstated against a sitting president – a nightmare scenario for Zuma and the governing ANC – but it will finally make public the tapes, internal memos and documents the NPA relied on in coming to the conclusion the case against Zuma was so contaminated by a political agenda that it should be dropped.
This announcement was made by then acting national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe, shortly before the 2009 elections, after he played excerpts of the tapes purportedly showing the charges against Zuma had been timed to inflict maximum damage as he went up against then-president Thabo Mbeki in a battle for leadership of the ANC.
But the full context of these conversations was not revealed and subsequent reports of what the tapes might contain have painted a more complex picture.
Pretoria News Weekend