KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu. File photo: Siyanda Mayeza

Durban - The controversial “spy tapes” that got President Jacob Zuma off the hook in 2009 do not contain the kind of evidence that could bring the president down, suggests KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu.

Mchunu, who is also the ANC provincial chairman in Zuma’s home province, said that “maybe when (the tapes) come out, I hope we will not be shocked realising that there is nothing (in them) after all”.

This may be the strongest indication yet that not only will the controversial recordings be released but that their contents will not compel the 2009 ruling that wiped Zuma’s slate clean to be reversed.

Five years ago the National Prosecuting Authority withdrew a raft of corruption and fraud charges against the then president-in-waiting based on the contents of taped telephone conversations, acquired from the National Intelligence Agency, between senior heads of the erstwhile Scorpions that suggested Zuma was the victim of a political conspiracy.

However the transcripts of the telephone recordings could not be released because Zuma’s legal representations were privileged for confidentiality, the NPA argued, and such privilege extended to the tapes.

However since then the DA has battled in the courts to have the tapes released on the widespread assumption that they did not contain sufficient evidence to have the charges against Zuma dropped. It has always been the opposition party’s view that he has a serious case of fraud and corruption to answer.

But Zuma’s legal team has refused to hand the tapes over, despite court rulings ordering them to do so.

“I’m assuming (the DA) know exactly why and what they want the tapes for, but I wouldn’t want a situation where there is an assumption that somebody is resisting (their release),” Mchunu said. “I think (Zuma’s personal lawyer, Michael Hulley) has raised a number of questions, not necessarily just with a bare face saying we can’t give (the tapes over).”

Hulley could not be reached on Saturday to verify the veracity of Mchunu’s comments.

Suggesting the tapes might soon be released but that their contents will come as a surprise to many, Mchunu added: “Sitting here, despite the niceties of legal arguments… I would love to see what is in these tapes that would appear to be so controversial.

“That’s why I’m saying (that) when these tapes come out, I hope we will not be shocked realising that there is nothing (in them) after all.

“I think that would be one issue where, maybe, when things come out, all of us will then realise that we thought there was a big story here and all of a sudden we find there is no big story.”

When asked if he was suggesting that Zuma’s supposed innocence will be upheld for a second time, he said: “I’m quite conscious of what I’m saying. I’ve got reasons why (I’m saying this).”

Mchunu was responding to questions about whether Zuma would survive a second term as state president, should the ANC be returned to power in the forthcoming elections.

“When you look at him, physically and mentally he is sound,” he says of the 72-year-old, “but you can’t predict how that might change in five years.”

That was just days before Zuma ended up in hospital for a few hours on Saturday.

Sunday Independent