Scrap mention of political meddling, NPA tells court

Former president Thabo Mbeki and two of his justice ministers might be criminally charged if the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) confirms Judge Chris Nicholson’s ruling that they interfered in the prosecution of African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma.

That’s according to the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) advocate, Wim Trengove, who argued on Friday morning that Nicholson’s inferences of political interference should be scrapped.

Asked by the appeal judges why they should rule on something that was not an order of the court, Trengove said he accepts the finding is “entirely irrelevant”, but that it has profound consequences for the NPA. These are:

  • Zuma’s plans to launch an application for a permanent stay of his prosecution. It would be damaging for the NPA to go into such an application with Nicholson’s ruling still standing;
  • The allegations of “gross misconduct” by three consecutive national directors of public prosecutions; and
  • The “suggestion” that Mbeki and former justice ministers Penuell Maduna and Brigitte Mabandla were guilty of criminal conduct. This will have to be investigated if Nicholson’s judgement stands.
  • Trengove said it would suffice if the SCA ruled that Nicholson’s findings about a political conspiracy against Zuma were irrelevant, and that he didn’t ask for a court order on the matter.

    Advocate Marumo Moerane, who made representations on behalf of Mbeki, only addressed the court for 13 minutes after he was extensively questioned by the appeal judges on Mbeki’s standing in a matter to which he was not a party.

    “The court [Nicholson] had absolutely no regard in the manner it dealt with the allegations [of political conspiracy] for the dignity and status of the former president and his office,” Moerane said.

    Right to be heard
    Zuma believes he had a legitimate right to be heard before the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) charged him last year on racketeering, money-laundering, corruption and fraud relating to a multibillion-rand government arms deal.

    Zuma was charged in 2005, but that case was struck from the roll in 2006. He was recharged in December 2007 and on September 12 was vindicated by Nicholson.

    But it was Nicholson’s judgement that set the cat among the pigeons.

    Within days, Mbeki had lost his job — which he contends was because of Nicholson’s inferences of political meddling in the charging of Zuma.

    Zuma’s team is defending the Nicholson judgement and holds that he did indeed consider whether the facts and circumstances testified to [of political influences] displayed some merit.

    “It [the judgement] carefully considered the circumstances and decided that there appeared to be merit in the respondent’s [Zuma’s] averments of political interference in his prosecution.”

    Zuma also argues that the NDPP, in terms of Section 179(5)(d) of the Constitution, was obliged to offer him an opportunity to make representations.

    Mbeki wants to be allowed to challenge the Nicholson’s inferences of political interference against him, which he claims led the ANC to recall him from his position as president of the country.

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