Cape Town - Pressure is mounting on President Jacob Zuma to step down following his own latest admission that the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority to drop 783 criminal charges against him “was irrational”.
Zuma made the admission during the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) hearing in which he and the NPA were trying to appeal a decision by a full bench of the high court in Pretoria to reinstate criminal charges against him.
The latest admission came in the wake of another application in the same court this week in which the DA asked the court to force Zuma to set up a judicial commission of inquiry following recommendations in former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report.
In October last year, Madonsela had recommended that such a judicial commission should be set up within 30 days of her tabling the report, but Zuma opposed the move and asked the same court to review Madonsela’s recommendation.
On Thursday, Zuma surprised many when he for the first time admitted that the former national director of public prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe, was wrong when he dropped charges against him.
The NPA also admitted that Mpshe used the wrong legal statute to withdraw charges.
Initially, though, NPA legal counsel advocate Hilton Epstein SC had wanted the court to uphold the appeal against the reinstatement of the charges.
Epstein later backtracked when SCA judges pointed out several inadequacies in Mpshe’s decision.
The judges said the decision to charge Zuma was the decision of prosecutors and not those of former NPA head Leonard McCarthy, who he had earlier accused of having “manipulated the charges against Zuma”.
Zuma’s concession gave weight to calls by his ANC alliance partners, Cosatu and the SACP, for him to step down from the highest office in the country.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the concession Zuma made in the SCA on Thursday, through his legal counsel advocate Kemp J Kemp SC, was enough grounds for him to step down and focus on the impending charges against him.
Ntshalintshali said the NPA’s reasons to appeal against the reinstatement of the charges against Zuma were not convincing and that “all people were equal before the law”.
He said Zuma must be given an opportunity to state his case before a court of law.
“He must step down like (former deputy minister of higher education) Mduduzi Manana and answer to the allegations,” Ntshalintshali said.
He conceded that Cosatu was eagerly waiting for the final outcome of the SCA ruling.
SACP acting spokesperson Mhlekwa Nxumalo was equally scathing about Zuma’s concession, calling it the hallmark of an “inconsistent person”.
“Our view, as the SACP, is that the president has not been consistent on this matter. When the initial charges arose, the president had painted himself as a victim of a political programme of some within the ANC to use state agencies against him. He used the same tactics during the Nkandla saga,” he said.
“In the Nkandla matter, he made all sorts of negative comments about his own comrades, only to later apologise to the nation and pay the fine for the non-security upgrades at his home,” Nxumalo said.
The reinstatement of charges against Zuma was also set to be a big blow to presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, whose campaign is closely associated with the president after he endorsed her.
This comes hot on the heels of a court nullifying the outcomes of last year's KwaZulu-Natal ANC elective conference, where Zuma’s allies were elected.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said it was too early to comment, saying “it would be ill-advised to comment before the Supreme Court of Appeal makes its final ruling on the matter”.
NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said the SCA was likely to refer its decision to National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams for a decision.
The DA, however, maintained that it would do everything in its power to ensure Zuma was criminally prosecuted.
DA Federal Council chairperson James Selfe said: “Even if it takes us 18 years or more, we are going to get to a situation where Jacob G Zuma gets to appear in court.”