Prosecuting authority trying its best to avoid bringing corruption charges against Zuma
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is pulling out all the stops in defence of its decision to drop corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma.
This will include arguing that the North Gauteng High Court’s finding that Zuma should “face the charges as outlined in the indictment” was “an inappropriate transgression of the separation of powers”.
The NPA on Friday filed its court papers asking the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal the so-called spy tapes matter, in which the court found that the decision to drop charges against Zuma was “irrational”.
This means the NPA intends to bypass the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), where it has in the past received harsh criticism for its handling of the matter.
Gosiame Seleka, the state attorney who drew up the NPA’s affidavit, however, indicated he had been “informed” Zuma would be appealing to the SCA.
The appeal will be the next chapter in the DA’s legal battle that is now dragging into its seventh year.
The multimillion-rand legal suit has already landed in the SCA twice, with the NPA and Zuma failing both times to convince the court of their preliminary legal arguments.
The NPA’s application for leave to appeal relies on both grounds that allow a party to approach the Constitutional Court, namely: a constitutional issue and an arguable point of law of general public importance.
The NPA argues that the high court’s finding that “Zuma should face the charges as outlined in the indictment” raises a constitutional issue because the national director for public prosecutions has the discretion, in terms of the constitution, to withdraw criminal charges.
The NPA also approaches the court on the alternative basis that the matter is “clearly a matter of public importance” because it “concerns the president of the country and the possible institution of criminal charges against him while he is in office”.
The NPA has raised six grounds in which it takes issue with the high court’s findings that former NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe’s decision was irrational.
This includes an argument that the high court was wrong to state “that Mr Zuma should face the charges as outlined in the indictment”.
The NPA says the court was only asked to declare the decision irrational and “there was simply no need to give direction in regard to the further conduct of the matter”.
In addition, the NPA has also offered an explanation for a question raised by the high court, namely how the NPA could possibly argue that the timing of the charges against Zuma was manipulated to favour former President Thabo Mbeki.
This is because the spy tapes – intercepted telephone conversations between former Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy and Bulelani Ngcuka, an influential Mbeki supporter – make it clear there was a discussion to postpone the service of the indictment until after the ANC’s Polokwane conference, an action that would ostensibly have been in Zuma’s favour.
The NPA, however, argues, “it is clear that Mr McCarthy and Mr Ngcuka believed that the service of the indictment shortly before the Polokwane conference would provoke a backlash from [those] who would consider it part of a plot to besmirch Mr Zuma”.
The DA, who brought the application to review the decision to drop charges, has indicated it would oppose the application.