Expert: Zuma tapes could go public in court
Bloemfontein - The so-called spy tapes that featured in a decision to drop criminal charges against President Jacob Zuma in 2009 might be aired publicly if they are presented in court, a legal expert said on Friday.
Northwest University law professor Tom Coetzee said if the Democratic Alliance decided to file a review application of the National Prosecuting Authority’s decision to drop corruption charges against Zuma, the content of the tapes might be part of its submission.
"The party still needs to find enough grounds to bring a review from the documents to be handed to them by the NPA," he said.
On Thursday, the NPA announced that it would hand the DA a record of its decision not to prosecute Zuma.
NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said it would not challenge a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment in the Constitutional Court, but would follow the process set out in the SCA judgment.
The SCA upheld the DA’s attempt to gain access to the records and held that this record should consist of the documents and material relevant to the review.
These included papers which were before the then acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe when he made his decision.
The court decided that the record should exclude written representations made on behalf of Zuma and any consequent memoranda or reports prepared in response, or oral representations, if their production would breach confidentiality agreements.
Coetzee said nothing could stop the DA from releasing the contents of the tapes to the media, but that this would not help any application it made for review.
He said a review court, which would be a High Court, could decide after hearing the matter that no irregularities occurred with the NPA’s decision or the other way around.
If a court found against a review, the DA would be able to take the decision on appeal.
If the court found there were irregularities in the NPA’s 2009 decision, it would again be up to the NPA to decide whether to prosecute Zuma.
Coetzee said if the tapes were to be part of the DA’s documents in the review application, filed in court, they would become public knowledge.
"It would become part of a public document."
Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos, in his blog Constitutionally Speaking, wrote that the documents, if made public, could be embarrassing to Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki.
He said it could remind South Africans that there was still a strong prima facie case of corruption against Zuma, a case which he had never answered despite claims at the time that he wanted to clear his name.
De Vos said it could be that the documents would also embarrass Mbeki and others who might have plotted against Zuma.
This was because reasons given for the dropping of the charges against Zuma centred on the alleged abuse of the process of manipulation inside the NPA on the timing of charges against Zuma.
On Friday, DA spokesperson James Selfe said the party expected the documents any time soon after the NPA asked for an extension on Thursday to finish the transcripts.