/ 2 March 2016

NPA: Mbeki not behind Zuma prosecution

President Jacob Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki in 2009.
Former presidents Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki. File photo

Former president Thabo Mbeki had nothing to do with the plot to have President Jacob Zuma prosecuted, the high court in Pretoria heard on Tuesday.

“There is no suggestion or evidence to say president Mbeki was party to this prosecution,” advocate Hilton Epstein, representing National Prosecuting Authority, told the court.

“It was [former Scorpions head Leonard] McCarthy with one point in mind for a political agenda he had.”

The matter was being heard before Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba, who was flanked by Judge Billy Mothle and Judge Cynthia Pretorius.

Epstein was responding to Mothle’s question about the allegations of political interference levelled against Mbeki, McCarthy and former NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka in the prosecution of Zuma.

Mothle asked how the allegations could be proved if the people involved had not made submissions or given their side of the story. Epstein said that they had declined to do so.

Mothle then asked where those allegations stemmed from as they were not in the so-called “spy tapes”. He also wanted to know how they could prove that there were meetings involving Mbeki.  Epstein conceded there was no proof.

He, however, argued that McCarthy and Ngcuka worked with the goal to manipulate the prosecution process. Epstein said McCarthy was central to everything including manipulating former National Director of Public Prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe.

“McCarthy is central to all of this. He was the person who was managing this prosecution,” he said.

The “spy tapes” are recordings of telephone conversations between McCarthy and Ngcuka, and apparently show political interference in the decision to charge Zuma.

They were part of written and oral representations handed to the NPA as part of Zuma’s case that the more than 700 charges against him should be dropped.

Mpshe said he was convinced there was evidence of an abuse of process against Zuma during the prosecution.

On April 7, 2009, the charges against Zuma were withdrawn in the High Court in Durban. Following general elections, Zuma was sworn in for his first term as president that May.

Mothle asked Epstein on Tuesday what had changed Mpshe’s mind, after listening to the tapes, to say there was an abuse of process.

“He listened to the tapes, knowing what was in there. Right until that evening he was of the view that the prosecution should continue. What we don’t know is what changed his mind. What was new in the recordings?” Mothle asked.

Epstein responded: “He said he felt betrayed by McCarthy and realised how he and many in the NPA were manipulated by McCarthy. He states now that he realised what was at play when he listened to the tapes,” said Epstein.

The case was adjourned for the day and is due to resume on Wednesday. – News24