Parliament - Pressure on the National Prosecuting Authority to announce its next move mounted on Wednesday after the debate on the Presidency budget descended into a row over whether President Jacob Zuma was effectively a corruption accused.
This comes after the high court in Pretoria ruled on Friday that the 2009 decision by then-acting national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe to drop corruption charges against Zuma was irrational and that he should face the charges in line with the original indictment.
Some legal commentators have argued this effectively means the situation reverts to the position prior to the dropping of the charges, with the result that the original decision to prosecute stands and Zuma should face trial unless there is an appeal against last week’s judgment.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane took this view in his speech, arguing that the Presidency budget was being abused “to keep an accused criminal in his job” – instantly drawing objections from the ANC.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu insisted that the court had not reinstated the charges but only set aside the decision to drop them.
The ball was now in the NPA’s court, he said, for a decision on whether to proceed.
This piles pressure on NPA boss Shaun Abrahams to reach a decision soon as the country enters the local government elections season with serious questions hanging over the ability of Zuma to continue to function as head of state.
Already the ANC and SACP have made it clear they favour a swift resolution of the dilemma, saying “justice delayed is justice denied” and pointing out that the matter has dragged on for more than seven years – an indication that they would not favour an appeal.
But in the absence of an appeal, Abrahams would seem to have very little room to decline to prosecute in light of the scathing opinion of the court on Mpshe’s decision to do so and its statement that Zuma should face the original charges.
The debate on the Presidency budget gave a clear indication that opposition parties saw Zuma as an electoral weapon that they were likely to exploit to the maximum in the coming campaign.
Before the debate had even begun, EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu proposed a motion for Zuma to be removed, saying an “illegitimate person” should not be allowed to address the National Assembly.
“Parliament is the institution that must hold Jacob Zuma accountable and he has been found to have acted outside the law, and Parliament is not doing anything about it,” said Floyd Shivambu.
“We will never allow to be addressed by a criminal, we will never allow to give money, a budget to a criminal who is just going to abuse that money for his own self-enrichment and the promotion of his family… Jacob Zuma will never find peace in the presence of the EFF,” Shivambu added.
This ultimately led to a repeat of the ugly scenes of last year’s State of the Nation address as EFF MPs were dragged from the House by plainclothes members of Parliament’s protection services after they refused to leave on the instruction of Speaker Baleka Mbete.
Mthembu sought to recall Zuma’s Struggle credentials and said that even if he wasn’t perfect, he had apologised following the Constitutional Court finding that he had failed to uphold the constitution.
But Maimane followed with an attack on Zuma’s fitness for office, describing him as the “looter-in-chief” and “biggest beneficiary of the R70 billion arms deal” – leading to furious objections from the ANC.
Zuma was due to respond to the debate on Thursday afternoon. – Additional reporting by ANA