Zuma's lawyers stick with conspiracy claim for DA application
President Jacob Zuma’s lawyers are holding fast to their contention that he was the victim of a political conspiracy and abuse of power when he was charged with corruption relating to a multibillion-rand arms deal.
And, they argue in court papers, that the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) application on Tuesday for a review of the decision to drop the charges is nothing more than another abuse of process by a political minority which is opposed to him.
In the submissions, Zuma’s lawyers put most of the blame for the abandoned prosecution on former president Thabo Mbeki, former Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) head Leonard McCarthy and former prosecutions boss Bulelani Ngcuka.
It was all part of a massive factional battle within the ANC between supporters of Zuma and supporters of Mbeki, the lawyers continue in argument to be tested in court.
Zuma’s lawyers submit that the former head of the DSO, or the disbanded Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy, had regarded even the prosecutors as ‘‘foot soldiers’’ in the battle against Zuma since 2001.
On April 6 2009, then National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Mokotedi Mpshe announced that the National Prosecuting Authority had received written and oral representations by Zuma’s lawyers.
He had also been given a recording of a conversation to fortify its claim that there was a plot against Zuma.
Mpshe said he was convinced that there was evidence of an abuse of process against Zuma during the prosecution and that the charges would be dropped.
On April 7 2009, the charges against Zuma were withdrawn in the high court in Durban and after the elections later in April, it was announced that the ANC had retained its majority. Zuma was sworn in for his first term as president that May.
The president’s lawyers believe the case against him is now dead, and disagree with the DA’s contention that if the court rules in its favour, the charges can be reinstated.
They argue that Zuma has had to deal with constant leaks, speculation and commissions of inquiry – all at the hand of McCarthy, who left the Scorpions to join the World Bank when Mbeki lost his bid for a third term at the presidency.
After Zuma’s financial adviser Schabir Shaik was found guilty of facilitating a bribe from arms company Thint to Zuma, the speculation about Zuma increased, they argue.
It was unfair to just have charged Shaik and not given Zuma chance to defend himself.
‘‘The adverse publicity was unremitting, extensive, indeed massive, sensational, inaccurate and misleading,’’ Zuma’s response reads.
The reporting on the controversy was fed from leaks from the NPA, and included a secret meeting with black editors.
‘‘The obvious invasion of Zuma’s fair trial rights, and trial prejudice, as a result of all this, are manifest.’‘
They continued: ‘‘It is virtually impossible to fairly try Zuma in these circumstances.’‘
Legal or political?
The DA wants the court to decide whether the decision was based on sound legal thinking or whether it was political.
There have been at least 18 court cases directly related to the claims that Zuma received over R1-million in a bribe from French arms company Thint to influence the multi-billion rand arms deal which was signed in September 1999. The DA said it had spent around R10 million getting to the review application.
It said the delays in bringing the application were mainly caused by Zuma and the NPA.
It finally got a copy of the ‘‘spy tapes’’ – a flash drive of the recordings which purportedly support Zuma’s conspiracy claim - and had to wait over a year for a date.
If the DA wins the case – that it was a political decision – it could pave the way for the NPA to reinstitute the charges.
This decision would be made by the current NDPP Shaun Abrahams.
Although drawn out, the case is still within the 20-year limit to prosecute. – News24