/ 30 March 2009

No decision on Zuma yet

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) by Monday afternoon had not announced a decision on whether it would drop corruption charges against African National Congress president Jacob Zuma.

NPA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the leadership of the NPA, headed by the acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Mokotedi Mpshe, was meeting on Monday afternoon with the team responsible for the Zuma investigation and prosecution ”in an effort to pave the way towards making a decision”.

The meeting would assess progress made so far on the information they had received from Zuma’s legal team on the representations they had made in the hopes of having the case against him dropped.

”It is this entire basket of information that must be properly considered. It is our view that it is not in anyone’s interest for this issue to remain unresolved over a lengthy period of time,” said Tlali.

”The NPA is giving it [the] priority attention it deserves. The urgency that attaches to the process should not be at the expense of procedures that as a matter of law must be followed.

”The NPA will appropriately communicate its decision once there is one in place,” he said.

This comes after some media speculated that charges against Zuma were about to be dropped.

On the Friends of Jacob Zuma website, ”Concer” wrote ”Mpshe, hurry up and vindicate us”.

”The battle you are facing Msholozi is about to be WON very soon,” wrote Bongani Majola.

Although both the NPA and Zuma’s legal team had opted not to discuss details of the representations, news reports said the latest representations to the NPA involved recordings of phone taps that might substantiate Zuma’s contention that he was the victim of a political conspiracy.

Zuma, the ANC’s presidential candidate, was facing fraud and corruption charges related to a multibillion-rand government arms deal.

The announcement could end a lengthy legal battle between the authority and Zuma.

Both sides had dates pending for the High Court in Pietermaritzburg and the Constitutional Court, in a case that had not yet reached the plea stage.

In August 2003 then NDPP Bulelani Ngcuka announced that Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik would be charged with corruption and fraud, related to the arms deal, adding that though there was a prima facie case against Zuma, the NPA would not be charging him because it did not believe the case was winnable.

Zuma cried foul, claiming a political conspiracy aimed at derailing his bid to succeed Thabo Mbeki in the presidency, an assertion he had maintained ever since.

Shaik went on trial a year later, and in June 2005 was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was controversially released on medical parole earlier in March after serving less than three years of his sentence.

After Shaik’s conviction, Mbeki sacked Zuma from the deputy presidency, naming Ngcuka’s wife Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in his place, and a week after that the NPA announced it was going to prosecute Zuma on two counts of corruption.

He was then charged but the case was struck off the role.

He was indicted again in 2007, shortly after being elected ANC president.

But on September 12 2008, in the Durban High Court, Judge Chris Nicholson ruled the state’s decision to prosecute him was unlawful because the state had failed to take representations from Zuma on the case.

Nicholson also said the former deputy president was not wrong to infer a political conspiracy against him.

In January this year, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned Nicholson’s ruling.

The criminal charges against Zuma, 16 in total, one of racketeering, one of money-laundering, two of corruption and 12 of fraud, were then reinstated.

The arms company alleged to have paid the bribe also wanted the case against them stopped.

Meanwhile, after a busy week of beating the campaign trail, Zuma was expected to be ”in the office”, attending to party business on Monday, with no public engagements scheduled, said Ishmael Mnisi, an ANC spokesperson.

He said that while the party did not get involved in the representations, they were keen to know if a decision was made on Monday or whether there would be further engagements. — Sapa