Prosecutors staged a surprise comeback this week in their battle with the National Prosecuting Authority’s chiefs over charges against Jacob Zuma — but the dropping of the charges now looks a done deal.
The implication is that Zuma will not answer the compelling case against him, despite his demand for his day in court. With a cloud of suspicion still hanging over him, he will be elected as South Africa’s president in less than a month. On Friday the NPA was to announce when acting NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe will formally clarify the fate of the Zuma trial. Earlier reports were that he would announce the dropping of charges at the beginning of the week.
Zuma had champagne on ice and his diary was cleared for a celebration.
The delay was ascribed to a fight-back by lead prosecutor Billy Downer and his team, arguing for the case to proceed. But the further postponement of Mpshe’s announcement has led informed sources to believe that the charges will be dropped.
‘If they were going to continue charging him there was no reason to debate the issue for days,” said one. ‘The delay most likely points to the fact that the NPA is trying to put together the factual reasons for dropping the charges.
‘The public is obviously going to need reasons for the dropping of the charges. The NPA has to be in a position to furnish these.”
A senior NPA employee told the M&G that Downer was still resisting the dropping of charges, but was likely to be overruled by Mpshe.
‘He [Downer] will have to be overruled — there was no way in hell he was going to be swayed by the release of some tapes pointing to political interference.”
The source insisted that the charges against Zuma are ‘solid”. ‘Zuma’s representations didn’t weaken the fraud and money laundering charges against him. If there’s proof of political interference, charge those who interfered.”
The source saw Willie Hofmeyr, Mpshe’s deputy, as Downer’s most formidable opponent. ‘Hofmeyr is a very powerful force and he’s above suspicion of political interference, but he’s an ANC man deep in his bones. He’ll want to do what’s in the best interest of the country and, in powerful quarters, that’s seen as the best interests of the ANC.”
The NPA source added that dropping the charges will ‘open another can of worms for the NPA”.
‘They’ll have to tell people why they’re dropping the charges and make proper disclosure. They have a real problem because Zuma’s lawyers have compelling information about political interference, but can’t show he is innocent on the fraud and money laundering charges.”
A Zuma camp insider said: ‘The fight’s over. The NPA are debating what to put in the public domain.”
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu launched a blistering attack on Zuma on Wednesday, saying he did not look forward to having him as his president. ‘If he is innocent, as he claims, he must let the courts prove it,” Tutu told an audience in the Durban City Hall.
DA leader Helen Zille reiterated on Thursday that she will institute legal proceedings ‘to ensure that justice is served” if the Zuma charges are dropped.