DA makes a move on spy tapes

After a bitter, multimillion-rand legal feud lasting more than five years, the DA has taken its first real step towards having corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma reinstated.

On Thursday, the party’s federal chair­person, James Selfe, filed a supplementary ­affidavit in the North Gauteng High Court. The DA hopes this will ultimately overturn then prosecutions boss Mokotedi Mpshe’s 2009 ­decision to drop charges against Zuma.

In its affidavit, the DA says former Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy was indulging in “vainglorious self-promotion” when he was caught on the spy tapes saying Zuma would be charged with corruption, and that

McCarthy had no real power to influence ­Zuma’s prosecution.

When Mpshe announced the charges would be dropped, he explained the decision by saying the timing of the charges had been manipulated and Zuma had been the victim of a ­“political conspiracy”.

But the DA says this explanation is “so ­inexplicable that there are good grounds to believe [the decision] was taken for an ulterior motive”.

The corruption, racketeering and money-laundering charges in question relate to 783 payments made to Zuma by his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik and his companies between 1995 and 2005, ­totalling R4?072?499.85.

The DA has now analysed the more than 600 pages of spy tape transcriptions, internal ­National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) memorandums, notes and documents it received two months ago, and ­concluded there was simply “no rational connection” ­between this information and the decision Mpshe announced to the public on April 6 2009.

“In light of the record, which has now been provided by [the NPA]?…?it is simply not credible that Mpshe’s stated reasons actually formed the basis for his decision,” writes Selfe in the affidavit.

At the press conference in which Mpshe announced the decision in April 2009, he said the spy tapes – intercepted telephone conversations between McCarthy and Bulelani Ngcuka, a supporter of former president Thabo Mbeki ahead of the ANC’s Polokwane elective conference in 2007 – show there was an attempt to manipulate the “timing of the charges” in favour of Mbeki.

In one particularly damning conversation on December 13, McCarthy goes so far as to say he “felt like going to Polokwane and charging there”.

But the DA believes it has been handed a memorandum that shows McCarthy was “holding himself out as a person of influence, when in fact he had very little control”.

In this memorandum, dated December 6 2007, 10 days before the Polokwane conference, and addressed to Mpshe, prosecutor ­Billy Downer expresses the investigating team’s unhappiness about what he calls ­Mpshe’s “final” decision not to charge Zuma until after Polokwane.

This means the most of the conversations between McCarthy and Ngcuka took place at a time when a final decision about charging Zuma had already been made by ­Mpshe himself.

“To the extent that McCarthy’s suggestions of his role were intended seriously, they display little more than self-delusion.

“He must have known that he had no power to make good on his threat [to charge Zuma at Polokwane].”

Selfe also explains away a meeting ­McCarthy was organising with Mbeki to ­discuss Zuma’s case and “other things” by accepting Ngcuka’s explanation, given to the NPA at a later stage, that Mbeki was required to agree to McCarthy’s appointment at the World Bank.

But Zuma’s lawyers will likely seize on a key part of the transcriptions the DA has not mentioned at all.

This is a conversation between McCarthy and former justice minister Brigitte Mabandla, in which she hands the phone to Mbeki.

Mbeki says to McCarthy: “You have to choose, Leonard, now, whether you say former president or president.”

McCarthy then repeats: “You will always be my president,” before the discussion ­returns to the planned meeting.

Zuma and the NPA will file answering ­papers in the next few weeks.

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