Gerrie Nel mum on potential for private Zuma prosecution

2017-05-12 18:11
Gerrie Nel speaking at the Cape Town Press Club on the steps to green light a private prosecution (and successfully avoiding all our questions about Zuma). (Paul Herman, News24)

Gerrie Nel speaking at the Cape Town Press Club on the steps to green light a private prosecution (and successfully avoiding all our questions about Zuma). (Paul Herman, News24)

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Cape Town - Advocate Gerrie Nel did not want to be drawn on the possibility of a private prosecution of President Jacob Zuma, but did say "anyone can be privately prosecuted" if the steps were followed.

Nel fielded different versions of the same question on Friday at the Cape Town Press Club, with many wanting to know how successful a private prosecution can be.

News24 asked what reasons a national prosecutor may consider in stalling a case, and, if they decline to prosecute, were it possible for a private prosecutor to apply for a nolle prosequi certificate in Zuma's corruption case.

"There's no timeframe or statute, but it must be reasonable," he said of a prosecutor's decision to stall a case.

"Once you receive the order to prosecute, you have to indicate what you've done in order to make a decision as a prosecutor.

"In some of these cases there are complicated issues, and you have to consider a lot of things."

He paused for a second. "And I'm avoiding your other question," he said with a smile.

Complicated steps

Nel explained the complicated steps and veto power the National Prosecution Authority has over private cases.

"Now, if they decide not to prosecute a case, we must first consider why the NPA never prosecuted. Only then can we apply for a nolle prosequi certificate.

"Once we do, the NPA will have a second bite of the cherry [to takeover the case].

"So we'll go to the NPA, and we'll say, we think there's merit in this. If they decide okay we have reconsidered and we still don't want to prosecute, we have the authority to prosecute."

But he said there's more.

"If the NPA decide then that we are doing a good job and they want to take over from us, they can do so."

He said, however, that his goal was simply to make successful prosecutions stick, regardless of who pulls the final trigger.

On receipt of the certificate, which green lights private prosecutions, they had three months to institute a prosecution.

If they lose, they have to pay the costs of the accused, and vice versa, and given the private nature of funding, it was a risk to consider.

Were all the steps followed, however, "Then, it's exactly the same as any other prosecution".

Political prosecutions

Nel was again grilled on his reasons in joining civil body AfriForum, and how he can argue against the political perceptions around the cases he will choose to pursue.

He dismissed the concerns though, saying AfriForum was one of the few bodies willing to put its money where its mouth was, and the prospect and project excited him.

AfriForum has around 190 000 private donors.

He said people's perception that a case he chooses will be political in nature is just that, perception, and his goal was always to "go after bullies".

He also believed that the NPA has what it takes to go after farm murders, and that there was no reason for AfriForum to deal with the matter exclusively.

The former NPA hot shot, known as the Bulldog in legal circles, admitted it will be difficult to deal with corruption cases at a national level.

Corruption is essentially a "victimless" crime in one sense, in that if there was no complaint from an individual, it can go on unchecked for years.

Lastly, in considering which cases to choose for prosecution, he said the criteria was usually quite obvious.

"If you see a policeman, a constable for instance, buy a palacial house, there is something wrong.

"If someone in a procurement section of a government department is flying overseas multiple times a month, you know there is something wrong.

"If there is money that you can't explain, you have to prosecute. It's that simple."

"Follow the money," he finished.

Read more on:    gerrie nel  |  jacob zuma  |  cape town

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