Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma on Friday signalled that he is not going down without a fight after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein dismissed his appeal against a high court order that corruption charges against him must be reinstated.
The SCA on Friday dismissed with costs the appeal by Zuma and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in the long-running so-called spy tapes saga which has seen the Democratic Alliance fight for years for him to face 783 charges of fraud, racketeering and money-laundering.
SCA Justice Eric Leach upheld the High Court's ruling that the NPA's decision to drop the charges against Zuma in 2009, was irrational.
Justice Leach ruled that the then acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Mokotedi Mpshe, had invoked the incorrect provisions in considering Zuma's representations to the NPA by wrongly relying on section 179 (5) (d) of the Constitution, and on section 22 (2) (c) of the NPA Act.
Leach also said that the manner in which the affidavits were drawn up and the case conducted on behalf of the NPA was inexcusable, adding that it was difficult to understand how the NPA could think that the decision to terminate the prosecution against Zuma could be defended as it did not bear scrutiny.
Shortly before the 2009 polls, after Zuma had won the contest for the leadership of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Mpshe withdrew the 783 charges against him linked to South Africa's multi-million rand 1999 arms deal.
Following the SCA ruling, it is now up to the NPA to decide whether it will allow Zuma to make new representations or to immediately reinstate the charges.
Reacting to the ruling, Zuma said it was not unexpected but "disappointing" and called on the NPA to re-apply itself by going back to the representations he made more than eight years ago as to why he should not be charged.
"The effect of the decision is that... the representations have not been considered and the expectation is that the NDPP will now consider these representations under the correct prescripts of the law and make a legitimate decision relating thereto," his office said in a statement.
"These representations will be amplified in light of developments in the ensuing period, not least of all are the recent revelations around the integrity of the audit report which underpins the prosecution."
This was a reference to a forensic report by KPMG, the audit firm that is facing a storm of controversy over its work for firms owned by the Gupta family, that was to form part of the state's case against Zuma. KPMG has recently been forced to withdraw its report on an alleged "rogue" intelligence unit within the South African Revenue Services.
Opposition political parties have said in unison that the NPA must proceed with reinstating charges against the president or else the South African democratic project would be put in jeopardy.
The ruling ANC said it would study the judgment and await further decisions from the affected parties before making a comprehensive statement, but expressed its "full confidence" in the judiciary and the options it offers to all aggrieved parties.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said he would write to the National Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shaun Abrahams, to urge him to serve an indictment on Zuma and ensure that he appears in court to answer charges of corruption and fraud.
"I'm asking Shaun 'The Sheep' that he must commit to reinstating all 783 charges, and furnish the people of South Africa with a date within which these charges will be processed," Maimane said at a media briefing.
"Advocate Abrahams must give us a response within 10 days. The charges have been formulated, we believe the evidence is ready, and Jacob Zuma must have a trial date at the soonest possible time."
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), South Africa's third largest political party, also welcomed the SCA ruling, saying that the NPA must immediately institute charges against Zuma.
"The best way to restore the integrity of the NPA is to proceed and charge Zuma who must, in turn, step down from the highest office in the land. Zuma's continued occupation of office undermines the ability to uphold the rule of law," EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said.
"Not only has he broken the constitution, he has done everything in his power to avoid facing corruption charges. He is the greatest living threat to democracy and respect for the rule of law. He must step down and face the full might of the law."
- Edited by Emsie Ferreira