Johannesburg - The two centres of power in the ANC seem headed for a major showdown, this time in the county’s highest court over who has the power to appoint the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
It emerged on Friday that Cyril Ramaphosa had filed a notice to the Constitutional Court declaring his availability to help the court to deal with President Jacob Zuma’s appeal that, he as the deputy president, could not appoint a National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDDP). This came as the ANC top brass said to discuss pressing matters facing the party and the country.
The next NDPP will have powers to decide whether or not to reinstate Zuma’s 783 charges. And the senior prosecutor will also be driving the Asset Forfeiture Unit’s hunt for the alleged R50 billion looted by entities linked to the Guptas, Zuma’s friends.
In a brief submission to the apex court, Ramaphosa stated his intentions.
“Kindly take notice that the eighth respondent, the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, will abide by the decision of the Honourable Court,” said Ramaphosa, who is cited as among the respondents.
On Thursday, Zuma had filed papers at Concourt, arguing that the North Gauteng High Court had erred in law by saying he was unable to perform his role of appointing an NDPP head because he was conflicted in the matter.
This was after civil society activist organisations Corruption Watch, Freedom Under Law and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution approached the apex court to seek confirmation of the high court ruling which gave Ramaphosa presidential powers.
Zuma, in his appeal papers, argued that by delegating the responsibilities to Ramaphosa, the court was making it permissible to have two presidents in the country, which he said was not authorised by the constitution.
“The court erred in law in holding it to be constitutionally permissible to have two presidents in the country at the same time and both exercising presidential powers,” Zuma argued.
The current National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, and the NPA also yesterday appealed the ruling that declared his appointment invalid, accusing the high court of being speculative about his appointment by Zuma.
Last month, the North Gauteng High Court set aside Abrahams’ appointment and declared the removal and the R17-million handshake given to his predecessor, Mxolisi Nxasana, by Zuma as unlawful.
The court further ruled that Zuma was too conflicted to appoint a new national director of public prosecutions owing to his implication in corruption allegations (a matter he has now appealed), and tasked Ramaphosa to appoint a new prosecutions head within 60 days.
The Zuma and Ramaphosa battle over who should appoint the national director of public prosecutions was one of the first examples of the two centres of power since the party’s conference in December.
On Friday it remained unclear whether the debate on the two centres of power - the code name for Zuma’s removal - was on the agenda of the party’s national executive committee (NEC), which was meeting for a second day in Irene.
Constitutional law expert Phephelaphi Dube disagreed with Zuma’s assertions, saying the constitution made provision for the deputy president, when the president was otherwise unable to fulfil his duties, including the appointment of the NDPP.
“Since the president has a direct interest in the prosecution process, bearing in mind the pending 783 counts of corruption, this means that he is obviously conflicted and, as a result, he cannot appoint someone who will decide whether the charges should be reinstated,” Dube said.
Accountability Now’s Advocate Paul Hoffman concurred that section 90 of the constitution envisaged a situation in which the deputy president and indeed others might act in place of the president when he was unable to do so.
“Section 96 prohibits the executive, including the president, from incurring the risk of a conflict of interest between official duties and private interests.
“There is an obvious and very present risk of this kind in relation to allegations of state capture as the president is at the centre of them. Shaun Abrahams is a captured NDPP who was hand-picked by JZ to replace the independent-minded Nxasana, who was corruptly paid to relinquish his post,” Hoffman said.