President Jacob Zuma tried to buy more time from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in an apparent bid to ensure further delays to the fraud and corruption case against him.
A series of letters between national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams and lawyers for the DA indicate that Zuma asked to be given until the middle of February to make further submissions in his bid to avoid prosecution.
Last week, City Press reported that Zuma’s representations to Abrahams – as to why he should not be prosecuted on 783 charges of fraud and corruption relating to the arms deal – were contained in scores of lever arch files.
After the judgment by the full Bench of the Supreme Court of Appeal in October, which ruled the decision to drop the charges against Zuma was “irrational” and that they should be reinstated, Zuma’s lawyers wrote to Abrahams on October 11.
Abrahams writes, in a letter which City Press obtained, that Zuma’s lawyer said the president “requested me to afford him an opportunity to submit representations in light of further developments that were reported in the media, which impact on the integrity of the investigation itself in reconsideration of the matter”.
“Whilst I was abroad on official business, my office received a letter, dated 24 November, from Mr Zuma’s legal representative in which Zuma requested an extension of the timeline to submit his representations until 19 February 2018,” Abrahams writes.
Zuma asked for the extension because:
- Of the “nonavailability of Zuma’s counsel until mid-December 2017 due to prior litigation commitments”;
- “The matter is complex and voluminous in nature”; and
- “Much had transpired since the submission of Zuma’s initial representations eight years ago and time was required to comprehensively review and appraise pertinent matters relating to the representations.”
The letter that Abrahams signed states that Zuma’s plea for an extension was granted, but with the warning that the matter had to be brought to finality “sooner rather than later”.
Abrahams also writes that he consulted “with the prosecution team” and had acceded to Zuma’s request for an extension, “but curtailed the period within which his representations should reach my office by no later than 31 January 2018”.
In what appears to be a harsher stance against Zuma, Abrahams added: “I have advised the legal representatives of Mr Zuma that no further request for an extension for the submission of his representations will be entertained.”
Abrahams’ handling of matters relating to Zuma was criticised by a full bench of the high court in Pretoria last week, which found that his appointment was unlawful and set it aside. Judge President Dunstan Mlambo ruled that Abrahams was biased in his dealings with Zuma, should vacate his office and that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa must appoint a replacement within 60 days because Zuma was “conflicted”.
Abrahams is currently appealing the judgment.
City Press has learnt from sources close to Abrahams that the NPA will no longer “treat Zuma and his friends with kid gloves”.
Zuma lost another case this week, again in the high court in Pretoria, which ruled that he was trying to “stymie the fulfilment of a Constitutional obligation” by the office of the Public Protector by delaying the appointment of a judicial commission of inquiry as recommended by Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report. He was ordered to appoint the commission within 30 days.
The full bench also unanimously found that he had abused court processes and ordered that Zuma pay the legal costs of the application from his own pocket.
City Press understands that the NPA will announce its decision whether to prosecute Zuma or not in the middle of February.
His fate now rests in the hands of deputy directors of public prosecutions Advocate Moipone Noko of KwaZulu-Natal, Advocate Lungi Mahlati SC of the Eastern Cape, his initial prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer SC, Advocate Raymond Mathenjwa and Advocate Alnicia Coetzee, the regional head of the Special Commercial Crimes Unit based in Bloemfontein.
When asked for comment, NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said Abrahams had given “the prosecution team stringent timelines to consider and finalise, hence he rejected the 19th of February as a suggested date for submission of the representations. He deems it prudent and in the interest of justice to finalise the matter soonest.”
City Press was told by three prosecutors this week that Zuma would not receive any favours and could find himself in the dock as early as next year.
Zuma faced the 783 charges before he was elected president of the ANC in 2007 and subsequently became president of the country. The charges were illegally withdrawn in April 2009.
The Hawks are now trying to locate the 218 witnesses who are key to the case.
Last week, the NPA announced that it had met with the Hawks to “establish a reasonable timeline it would take to verify the availability of the witnesses”.
“It was agreed that the investigating officer would require at least 30 days to conduct an initial assessment prior to reverting to the NPA on the availability of the witnesses and any factors which may or may not impact on the feasibility of the re-enrolment of the matter,” the NPA said.