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Wed May 25 17:01:55 SAST 2016

Judges to ponder Zuma charges case

Ernest Mabuza | 03 March, 2016 12:17
President Jacob Zuma. File photo
Image by: Flickr via The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will now await judgment on whether or not the decision made in 2009 to discontinue the prosecution of President Jacob Zuma on corruption charges will be set aside.

The full bench of the high court in Pretoria‚ which had been sitting from Tuesday to hear the application by the DA to set aside the decision made by Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Mokotedi Mpshe in 2009‚ on Thursday morning reserved judgment.

Mpshe decided to discontinue Zuma’s prosecution after being presented with conversations between then Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and former prosecuting authority head Bulelani Ngcuka that were recorded in November and December 2007.

The two discussed‚ among other things whether then President Thabo Mbeki’s prospects as African National Congress (ANC) president would be strengthened if the indictment against Zuma were to be served before‚ during or after the ANC's elective conference in Polokwane that was held during December 2007.

Zuma was eventually charged on December 28‚ 2007‚ after he had replaced Mbeki as ANC president.

When discontinuing the prosecution in April 2009‚ Mpshe said McCarthy’s conduct tainted the prosecution. Mpshe said any timing of the charging of an accused person which was not aimed at serving a legitimate purpose was improper‚ irregular and an abuse of process.

While the DA argued in court that Mpshe’s decision was irrational‚ the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Zuma argued that the conduct of McCarthy should not be taken lightly.

The NPA argued that affidavits showed that McCarthy had during November and December 2007 attempted on three separate occasions to persuade Billy Downer‚ the head of the Zuma prosecution team‚ Deputy NDPP Willie Hofmeyr and Mpshe that Zuma’s prosecution should be delayed until after the ANC conference.

The NPA’s counsel‚ Hilton Epstein SC‚ also asked whether it was more important to pursue the conviction of one person than ensure the integrity of the NPA.

“You put out of your minds‚ with respect‚ that this is the president‚ even when the merits [of the criminal charges Zuma was faced with] appear to be good‚" Epstein told judges Aubrey Ledwaba‚ Cynthia Pretorius and Billy Mothle on Wednesday.

“Or is it rather more important to assure the public that at any cost‚ their prosecutorial authority will not be impeded‚ it will not be affected‚ it will not be influenced by outsiders and it will always remain independent?” Epstein asked‚ urging the judges not to rule in the DA's favour.

Counsel for Zuma‚ Kemp J Kemp SC‚ said the NPA’s powers were in this case blatantly used by McCarthy to influence the outcome of the ANC presidential election. - TMG Digital/TMG Courts and Law

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