Johannesburg – The days of President Jacob Zuma delaying prosecution against himself on a litany of corruption charges seem to be all but over.
After almost a decade of evading court, he now has until November 30 to make representations to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as to why he should not stand trial for the 783 criminal charges against him. The NPA’s decision yesterday seemed a mere formality as the National Director of Public Prosecution (NDPP) advocate Shaun Abrahams appeared to have run out of options in his apparent protection of Zuma.
Last Friday, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) declared irrational the 2009 decision by the then-head of prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe to drop charges of corruption, money laundering and fraud against Zuma.
Following that ruling, and the scathing criticism of the NPA by the SCA, pressure was ratcheted up on the Abrahams to formally charge Zuma. He seemed to buckle under pressure yesterday when he announced that Zuma had until the end of next month to make new and fresh representations as to why the charges against him should not be reinstated.
“The NDPP is of the view that in light of the judgment of the SCA, it appears that any further representations envisaged by Mr Zuma should relate to issues not previously considered.
“As a result, Mr Zuma has been advised through his lawyers that he has until November 30 to submit any envisaged representations to the NDPP,” the NPA said yesterday.
The SCA ruling came after an 11th-hour concession by Zuma, through his defence team, that the 2009 decision to drop the charges was irrational. Following the SCA verdict, however, Zuma indicated that he would question the credibility of former KPMG’s auditor Johan van der Walt, who authored the controversial SA Revenue Service (Sars) “rogue unit” report.
In it, Van der Walt had claimed that former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was aware of the existence of the rogue unit within Sars to “illegally spy” on other Sars officials. Last month, however, KPMG distanced itself from the report and its contents.
Now Zuma is likely to submit to the NPA that Van der Walt’s forensic report which was used to prosecute Schabir Shaik in 2005 was also fictitious. But, in that court, the trial judge had found Van der Walt was an impartial witness.
Proving his innocence could be a daunting task for the president, if he is charged. The SCA found that he had failed, in his earlier representation to the NPA in 2009 to convince the prosecution team that he was unlikely to get a fair trial if prosecuted.
The court also found that Zuma relied on spy tapes conversation between former NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka and Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy to justify the withdrawal of charges against him. The court, however, said Zuma failed to provide convincing reasons that he had legally obtained those spy tapes.
The DA, which has said it is vindicated by the SCA verdict, has also been invited to make further representations by the end of November “in the event they deem it necessary to also submit further representations”, the NPA said.
The NPA has also given the Hawks 30 days to check on the availability of witnesses.
Abrahams said he and acting Hawks head Yolisa Matakata have asked the investigating officer in the case to trace the 218 witnesses who were supposed to testify against Zuma.