National

Spy tapes: Now you see them, now you don't

Phillip De Wet

DA leader Helen Zille had the infamous spy tapes in her hands for 15 minutes. But she left the high court in Pretoria without them nonetheless.

DA Leader Helen Zille arrived at the high court in Pretoria on Thursday to receive the spy tapes. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille on Thursday came close enough to the spy tapes to see the bulge made in the white envelope by the memory stick containing the recordings. But in the end she left the high court in Pretoria empty-handed, at least temporarily.

“We’ll be back here at 2:30pm,” Zille told assembled reporters just outside the court entrance, after hastily calling off a carefully choreographed victory exit in favour of lunch while the wheels of justice continued to turn.

Everything seemed to conspire to delay the handover of the recordings: court officials who wanted their photographs taken next to Zille, Zille taking a live radio interview by cellphone, and logistical arrangements to ensure there could be no later questions about the provenance of the copy handed to the opposition party. 

But shortly before 1pm, a forensic expert appointed by the DA held the small envelope with the red sticker and posed with Zille for an impromptu photo opportunity in the office of the registrar on the first floor of the building.

Not as planned
All that remained was to complete the legal niceties by lodging the “original” copy of the recordings on another data stick in a different envelope, with the deputy judge president for the region. Zille and her advisors took the lift to the top floor of the building in a celebratory mood.

But on the seventh floor, all did not go according to plan. “I’m sorry to say we are not leaving with them,” Zille told a crush of reporters.

The deputy judge president Aubrey Ledwaba, Zille said, first wanted to study the order handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal to ensure that it had been followed to the letter. In the meanwhile, she told supporters gathered just beyond the court gates that they had better be quiet, so as to not interfere with trials underway inside.

“We don’t want to undermine anyone else’s fair trial,” she said.

Appeal dismissed
On August 28, the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed President Jacob Zuma’s appeal against the release of the tapes with costs, and the National Prosecuting Authority was given five days to hand over the tapes and relevant related documents. 

The application to the appeal court was the final step in a long road of contention by Zuma to keep the content of the tapes off the record and out of the hands of the DA.


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