There are many things that have come out from the state capture commission. One of those is the missteps of the National Prosecution Authority under the so-called “nine wasted years” of former president Jacob Zuma’s administration.
On Monday when Zuma’s legal team made arguments before the Pietermaritzburg division of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court for a stay of prosecution on the fraud, corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges against him, his defence exposed that the rot within the NPA ran deeper than the nine years that Zuma was in charge, as laid bare before the Zondo commission.
Even under Thabo Mbeki’s administration, Zuma’s legal team argued, the NPA was used as an instrument to mete out political retribution towards those who were deemed to be opposed to the status quo of the time.
Zuma’s legal team also placed on record recordings of telephone conversations between former NPA and Scorpion heads Bulelani Ngcuka and Leonard McCarthy – now synonymously referred to as the Zuma spy tapes – of the two colluding on when and how to charge the then deputy president of the country.
In the recording, the two also use profanities to describe sitting judges and. Zuma’s legal team described them as having given off the impression that they were “a law unto themselves”.
Zuma’s senior counsel, Muzi Sikhakhane, submitted before the full bench of judges made up of Bhekisisa Mguni, Thulo Poyo-Dlwati and Esther Steyn that – as revealed in the Zuma spy tapes – Ngcuka and McCarthy were engaged in an “politically motivated or unconstitutional plot to prosecute” and therefore curtail Zuma’s political career.
Sikhakhane reiterated before the court that Ngcuka’s handling of the Zuma case, particularly his decision to rather prosecute Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik and not his client, was “clandestine and done without any legal basis”.
He argued that Shaik being on trial alone “amounted to Zuma being prosecuted in absentia and denied Zuma the opportunity to cross-examine evidence that later prejudiced him”.
Sikhakhane added that because Ngcuka decided to come out in public and pronounce that the NPA had a prima facie case against his client then not prosecute Zuma had inevitably resulted in his client’s name being synonymous with corruption.
“This happened because of the unconstitutional violation of my client’s rights by state organs who were supposed to uphold it,” argued Sikhakhane.
Also representing Zuma, Thabani Masuku said the application being presented by Zuma’s legal team was not an attack on the integrity of the NPA but a defence of Zuma’s rights which he argued were trounced upon by the NPA during their witch-hunt against his client.
These arguments were presented by Sikhakhane as his client and co-accused French arms company Thales appeared before the court seeking a permanent stay of prosecution.
The former president is in the dock facing 16 charges of fraud, money laundering, corruption and racketeering linked to 783 payments that French company Thales allegedly made to him in connection with the infamous arms deal.