Legal counsel for NPA boss Shaun Abrahams has argued that the nearly 800 charges against President Zuma were politically motivated. Picture: Masi Losi/ANA

Bloemfontein - The 783 criminal charges against President Jacob Zuma were politically motivated and were also aimed at saving the political career of his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.

This was the argument of Shaun Abrahams, the National Director of Public Prosecutions, before the Supreme Court of Appeal in his bid to appeal the reinstatement of the charges against Zuma following a decision of the full bench of the High Court in Pretoria in June last year.

Abrahams on Thursday morning through his counsel, Advocate Hilton Epstein SC, argued that the former NDPP Leonard McCarthy had “manipulated” the process to charge Zuma.

According to the evidence before the court, McCarthy and former NDPP Vusi Pikoli were engaged in a discussion on when to serve charges of Zuma. These discussions, which were recorded and later dubbed the Spy Tapes, happened while Zuma and Mbeki were facing each other in the battle for the ANC presidential race in Polokwane in December 2007.

Advocate Epstein said the charges against Zuma were supposed to be served before the Polokwane conference but McCarthy withheld the decision arguing that would affect Mbeki’s chances of retaining the ANC presidency.

“If McCarthy had served the indictment. It would have boomeranged and people would have rallied around Zuma and Mbeki would not be re-elected,” Epstein said.

Read: #SpyTapes: NPA’s submission off to a rough start

Advocate Epstein made these comments about Mbeki on numerous occasions but the judge had none of it.

The full bench of the SCA argued that the NPA had failed to demonstrate in their heads of arguments that the process to charge Zuma was likely to deny him a fair trial which is the main the main requirement for a stay of prosecution.

Epstein agreed with the judges but said McCarthy decision to lay charges against Zuma after the Polokwane conference was enough grounds to uphold the appeal.

Also read: SCA to hear latest round in Zuma's bid to duck charges

But Epstein had a difficulty in detailing the exact abuse of process. Despite arguing for a stay of prosecution, Epstein admitted that Advocate Mokotedi Mpshe who initially agreed to drop the charges against Zuma, had admitted in his confirmatory affidavit that the prosecution had a solid case against Zuma.

“Mphse does indicate in his confirmatory affidavit that the merits don’t come into play. The merits of the case are good. Mphse concedes that the prosecution team had recommended that prosecution must continue,” Epstein said.

The decision to drop charges against Zuma was made in 2009 and this led to the DA’s eight-year battle to reinstate the charges.

The case continues.

Political Bureau