The Zuma spy tapes that just won’t go away

On Wednesday, the Democratic Alliance will bring its umpteenth court application to a full bench of the North Gauteng High Court in an attempt to force the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to comply with a court order, which states that it must hand over the reduced court record that eventually led to the dropping of fraud and corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma.

The record is said to include the spy tapes, which are recordings of intercepted phone conversations between former NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka and then boss of the now extinguished Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy.

The tapes formed the basis of then acting NPA head Mokatedi Mpshe’s decision to drop corruption and fraud charges against Zuma in 2009.

The case was due to be heard in April, but was postponed for a decision on whether or not a full bench should hear the matter. The Mail & Guardian understands that a full bench will not, after all, hear the case.

Zuma and the NPA will oppose the application on the basis that the tapes formed part of his confidential representations to court during his trial.

But the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling, which the DA wants the court to enforce this week, excludes Zuma’s private representations from the public record to be handed over.

In March 2012, the Supreme Court of Appeal gave the NPA 14 days to produce the documents, which led to Mpshe’s decision to drop charges. Instead of producing the transcripts in April last year, the NPA handed them to Zuma’s lawyer Michael Hulley.

The DA then argued the NPA should be found in contempt of court because it had failed to comply with the court order.

Further complications
The matter was further complicated as neither the president nor his legal representatives ever handed over copies of the tapes to the NPA in the first place.

When dropping the charges, Mpshe said Hulley had only allowed prosecutors Sibongile Mzinyathi and Willie Hofmeyr to listen to recordings of the tapes.

After Zuma’s representations, the NPA independently obtained recordings from the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) of the same telephone intercepts

The president’s legal team argues that the tapes and their transcripts formed part of representations made to the NPA by Zuma and are as such confidential.

But, the DA contends, the recordings were handed over to the NPA by the NIA and cannot be seen as privileged information.

DA MP James Selfe said the party is confident of another victory this week.

“What we don’t want is a repeat of the previous court process, in which the court took over a year to deliver its judgment. We’re hoping for a speedy resolution to the proceedings this week. We are quite confident that the court will rule in our favour. All we want is for the NPA to abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court of Appeal, and hand over the reduced record,” he said. 

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Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

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