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Mail & Guardian Online reporter and Sapa, I-Net Bridge, Sapa-AFP17 Sep 2008 11:08
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Wednesday that it will apply for leave to appeal against the judgement delivered by Judge Chris Nicholson last Friday on the Jacob Zuma matter.
Friday’s court ruling led to the setting aside of corruption charges against the African National Congress (ANC) president.
Nicholson found that in terms of the law, Zuma should have been allowed to make representations to the NPA when it decided to make an about-turn on a previous public statement that he would not be charged.
Zuma had faced 16 charges, including racketeering, corruption and fraud, while French arms company Thint faced charges of racketeering, corruption and money laundering.
In his judgement, Nicholson said that once the procedural problem had been remedied, the NPA was free to recharge Zuma if it wanted to do so.
However, the judge said there was some merit in Zuma’s contention that there was a political conspiracy tied to rivalry between himself and President Thabo Mbeki.
He criticised the close relationship between the justice ministry and the NPA, which he said was supposed to make completely independent prosecutorial decisions.
On Wednesday, the NPA said it had carefully studied Nicholson’s judgement in the Zuma matter and taken senior counsel’s advice.
“Consequently we have decided to apply for leave to appeal against the judgement,” it said in a statement.
However, the NPA has yet to decide whether to recharge Zuma. The ANC Youth League has warned that anyone thinking of recharging the ANC leader would be viewed as public enemy number one, the Star reported on Wednesday.
“This decision will be made after the finalisation of the appeal. The NPA will take the necessary steps to expedite the appeal process,” it added.
The grounds of appeal will include that the court’s interpretation of the Constitution and the NPA Act regarding the obligation to solicit representations before recharging was incorrect.
“The judgement which we consider that should be corrected has made serious legal findings impacting on the operational processes in the NPA, hence the appeal,” it added.
‘Declaration of war’
The charges against Zuma related to a bribe he had allegedly received from his financial adviser Schabir Shaik in return for protecting the arms company during a probe into irregularities into the multimillion-rand arms deal.
When Shaik was about to be charged, the NPA publicly said it had enough evidence to charge Zuma too, but that the case was “not winnable”.
Nicholson said not charging Zuma was “bizarre” in a bilateral crime.
After Shaik’s conviction, Zuma was fired as deputy president of the country.
Zuma’s case was struck off the roll in 2006 because the state was not ready to proceed. He was recharged in December 2007 days after being elected president of the ruling party.
The NPA’s move could force President Thabo Mbeki’s resignation or recall from office, Business Day said on Wednesday, as it might reinforce the conviction in the Zuma camp that the NPA acts against Zuma on Mbeki’s whim.
Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has warned of mass strikes in response to the NPA’s decision to appeal the Zuma ruling.
Cosatu’s KwaZulu-Natal secretary, Zet Luzipho, said at a media briefing in Durban on Wednesday: “The fact that the NPA wants to continue this case ... is a declaration of war on our people.”
He said each time the authority took Zuma to court, the masses would strike. “And it won’t only be on the day of the court case but also before he goes to court,” Luzipho said.
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