/ 6 April 2009

NPA drops corruption charges against Zuma

The NPA on Monday said it was "neither possible nor desirable for the NPA to continue with the prosecution of Mr Zuma".

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Monday said it was “neither possible nor desirable for the NPA to continue with the prosecution of Mr Zuma”.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, acting NPA head Mokotedi Mpshe said charges against African National Congress (ANC) presidential candidate Jacob Zuma were being dropped, eight years into the case and two weeks before elections.

The response (PDF)

Read the NPA’s full statement on the Zuma case

Mpshe quoted from telephone recordings between former NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka and former head of the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), Leonard McCarthy, discussing the timing of
re-charging Zuma.

These conversations happened shortly before the ANC’s Polokwane conference in December 2007, when Zuma was elected the new leader of the African National Congress.

The transcripts of the phone conversations had been declassified by the National Intelligence Agency for Mpshe to make it public on Monday.

Mpshe described McCarthy’s actions as an “abuse of process”.

“It’s not so much the prosecution itself but the legal process that is tainted,” said Mpshe.

Mpshe said there was no conclusive evidence
of former president Thabo Mbeki being involved in the decision to charge Zuma with fraud and corruption charges.

“We could not find any trace that the [former] president was involved,” said Mpshe.

This was after he read from transcripts of phone conversations between McCarthy and Ngcuka, who at one stage said to McCarthy, “you made my day”, after finding out that Zuma will be re-charged.

Serious allegations
Mpshe said Zuma’s team had planned to hand the recordings to a court during the intended application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

“The NPA has decided to request the Inspector-General of Intelligence formally to investigate any possible illegality surrounding the recordings that were presented to it,” said Mpshe in his statement.

“Using one’s sense of justice and propriety as a yardstick by which McCarthy’s abuse of the process is measured, an intolerable abuse has occurred which compels a discontinuation of the prosecution.

“Mr McCarthy used the legal process for a purpose outside and extraneous to the prosecution itself. Even if the prosecution itself as conducted by the prosecution team is not tainted, the fact that Mr McCarthy, who was head of the DSO, and was in charge of the matter at all times and managed it almost on a daily basis, manipulated the legal process for purposes outside and extraneous to the prosecution itself. It is not so much the prosecution itself that is tainted, but the legal process itself.”

“What Mr McCarthy did was not simply being over-diligent in his pursuit of a case, it was pure abuse of process. If Mr McCarthy’s conduct offends one’s sense of justice, it would be unfair as well as unjust to continue with the prosecution,” said Mpshe.

Zille seeks legal opinion
Meanwhile, DA leader Helen Zille said on Monday that she was seeking legal opinion.

“We are not going to let the matter lie down. We are consulting for legal advice,” Zille told reporters outside the NPA’s office

Mpshe’s announcement sparked spontaneous celebrations by Zuma supporters outside the NPA office.

ANC supporters carrying placards with Zuma’s picture were elated, while members of the opposition Congress of the People and Independent Democrats parties sat in silence when the news broke.

Zille said the NPA had been manipulated by a pro-Zuma faction within the African National Congress.

Cope presidential candidate Mvume Dandala said the allegations of behind-the-scenes manipulation in the decision to charge Zuma needed to be tested in a court of law.

“The confidence in the justice system has been eroded,” said Dandala.

Cope member Vusi Moris agreed with Dandala.

“I feel bad. Shaik was sentenced for the same case, this is bad for South Africa,” said Moris, referring to the fraud conviction of Schabir Shaik, Zuma’s former financial adviser.

Shameful day
The dropping of charges was “shameful”, United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said on Monday.

“As we have been saying since last week, the charges have been dropped. It is a shameful day in our country’s history,” he said.

“People must brace themselves, our justice system is crumbling. To remedy this situation the voters need to express their disgust at the polls.

“This is the culmination of the campaign of the dodgy characters in the ANC to reduce this country to a banana republic — people must remember that a vast number of NEC members have faced or are facing charges,” Holomisa said.

He said the justice system had been sacrificed on the altar of political expedience.

One of the most basic principles of democracy was that all were equal before the law. That ideal now lay in tatters.

“It is a bad day for the NPA. Contrary to their desire to ingratiate themselves with the incoming executive, it would be far better for the leadership of the NPA to vacate their positions, because they will never be trusted again by the average South African,” he said.

Judith February, manager of the governance unit in the political information and monitoring service at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) said Mpshe had looked at a very narrow issue [of abuse of the legal process]; and his team did not consider the merits of the case.

‘The decision leaves us with far more questions than answers — the NPA did not say there is no case against Jacob Zuma, they said they will not continue prosecuting him due to manipulation and abuse within the NPA,” she told the M&G Online.

She said the onus was now on Zuma to address the allegations against him.