DA’s Zuma battle in court

2012-02-15 07:29

The DA today begins a lengthy legal battle to try and reverse the decision to drop corruption, fraud and racketeering charges against President Jacob Zuma.

The Supreme Court of Appeal will hear arguments by lawyers representing the DA, Zuma and the National Prosecuting Authority as to whether the political party can challenge the decision taken by acting national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe in 2009.

Mpshe announced that the 18 charges of fraud, racketeering and corruption relating to Zuma’s alleged involvement in arms deal corruption would be withdrawn shortly before he was elected president of South Africa.

The decision came after Zuma’s legal team produced evidence of so-called “spy tapes” – recorded conversations between the then NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka and Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy – suggesting Zuma’s prosecution may have been politically manipulated.
It also marked the end of at least five years of court battles by the NPA to ensure that Zuma was charged.

The DA subsequently challenged Mpshe’s decision in the North Gauteng High Court, attempting to force the NPA to hand over the record of documents it had used to make its decision.

But the court ruled last year that the party did not have a “direct and personal” interest in challenging the discontinued prosecution and therefore had no legal standing to go to court.

It is this ruling the DA will argue against in court today.

In the party’s court papers, lawyer Sean Rosenberg (SC) said that there was an “overwhelming public interest” in the case because Zuma’s “alleged crimes of corruption are crimes against the public and taxpayers in particular”.

“He is alleged to have provided political patronage and protection for financial reward. Every South African is affected by crimes of this kind.”

Kemp J Kemp (SC), appearing for Zuma, however, argued that while people had a right to lawful decisions being made, this “does not translate into a right of any and every person in South Africa to take on review every decision not to prosecute”.

Kemp said the only check on this “untrammelled right” would be the DA’s “political will to engage in the exercise and the costs, in other words, which cases it decided to have a go at”.

A further legal hurdle the DA will have to overcome is the fact that the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, on which it is relying to have a court review Mpshe’s decision, specifically excludes a “decision to institute or continue a prosecution”.

The party argues that the act does not make reference to the decision to “discontinue” a prosecution.

It also says that it should be allowed to challenge the decision based on the principle of the rule of law, a founding value of the Constitution.

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