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Spy tapes D-day: Zille to announce handover status

Phillip De Wet, Sapa

The DA's Helen Zille is expected to announce the status of the "spy tapes" handover outside the high court in Pretoria.

The DA might have celebrated the order that it must get the tapes, but its actual goal of having charges pressed against Zuma may still be a long way off. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille will be in Pretoria on Thursday for the deadline of the handing over of the so-called spy tapes.

Accompanied by DA Gauteng leader John Moodey, Gauteng north chairperson Solly Msimanga and national spokespersons Marius Redelinghuys and Phumzile van Damme, Zille is expected to announce the status of the handover to the DA supporters who are expected to gather outside the high court in Pretoria at noon.

Last week the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had to comply with a previous order to release the tapes within five days, in an application brought by the DA. The recordings, internal memoranda, reports and minutes of meetings dealing with the contents of the recordings also had to be provided.

President Jacob Zuma had opposed the move, bringing an application to prevent the release of the spy tapes and relevant related documents to the DA. His application was however dismissed.

At the time, a serving high court judge not involved in the matter said that the president had “exhausted his options on delaying the provision of the record”.

After many years of sometimes highly imaginative resistance to the handing over of the tapes, last week Thursday’s order by the court seems to represent the end of that particular road.

Zuma charges may be a ‘long way off’
The DA demanded the tapes as part of the record of the decision to drop corruption charges against Zuma. With that record the party can – depending on the contents – launch an application for a judicial review of the decision to drop the charges. If that review is successful, the charges may be brought again.

But although the DA celebrated the order that it must get the tapes, its actual goal – having charges pressed against Zuma – may still be a long way off.

“The spy tapes were always just a red herring, preventing the courts from the considering the real issue,” says constitutional expert Pierre de Vos. “That fight has been lost, but in the Stalingrad strategy you say ‘this block has been lost, now we fight for the next block.’”

“Stalingrad” has become shorthand for Zuma’s legal strategy of fighting every technicality in every available forum. It has been successful, and could well continue to be so.

“Once you have a review application then a whole lot of possible options open to the respondent [Zuma] to make technical points,” says the serving judge. “There’s probably still a good year or two ahead before the review would be heard, then the appeals all the way up ... It’ll be another five-year saga before there is an outcome.”

Conspiracy against Zuma
In April 2009, then acting national director of public prosecutions Moketedi Mpshe said the intercepted telephone calls on the tapes showed an abuse of process verging on a conspiracy against Zuma, and so he had decided to drop the case. 

The tapes allegedly reveal collusion between the former heads of the Directorate of Special Operations – the now defunct Scorpions – Leonard McCarthy, and the NPA’s former head Bulelani Ngcuka, to manipulate the prosecutorial process before the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007. Zuma was elected ANC president at the conference.

Although Mpshe released very limited excerpts of the recordings, the only parties known to have, or have had, copies of the actual recordings are Zuma’s legal team and the intelligence services. – Sapa, staff reporter


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