KwaZulu-Natal prosecutions boss, advocate Moipone Noko, said she would treat former president Jacob Zuma’s impending corruption case like “any other” high-profile matter within her jurisdiction.
The province’s director of public prosecutions (DPP), told the Mail & Guardian this week that she would leave Zuma’s prosecution on 16 charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering up to lead prosecutor Billy Downer SC and his team.
The charges relate to 783 payments made to Zuma while he was KwaZulu-Natal’s economic development MEC by his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik. Shaik received a 15-year jail sentence but was released on medical parole after serving two years.
Noko has faced criticism for several decisions in cases involving political heavyweights, sparking concerns about the prosecution of Zuma taking place under her jurisdiction.
Noko dismissed the criticisms as being “without merit” and said she was, in certain cases, blamed for decisions to withdraw charges that were taken by her predecessor or by the prosecutors involved in the cases.
She said she would not have a direct role in the Zuma matter, which will be heard in either the high court in Durban or Pietermaritzburg.
Zuma’s first trial, which was abandoned after a successful bid for a permanent stay of prosecution by the late judge president, Herbert Qedusizi Msimang, was held in Pietermaritzburg.
“The Zuma matter will not be prosecuted by me personally but by the prosecuting counsel,” Noko said. “My role will be like in any other case that is within my jurisdiction as a DPP in KwaZulu-Natal. I will not treat his case any differently.”
Noko said it was “standard practice” for DPPs dealing with high-profile cases in their jurisdiction to “regularly debrief” the prosecution team on developments in the case and give them “the necessary support and any direction or guidance they may need in the case”.
She would do so “in accordance with my constitutional mandate to direct criminal prosecutions and matters incidental thereto”.
“In turn, I will also brief the NDPP [national director of public prosecutions] accordingly for his information,” Noko said. “Any indictment or charge sheet against any accused person who is criminally prosecuted in the KwaZulu-Natal province comes out in my name in an official capacity as the one alleging the charges as per the indictment or charge sheet. That is part of my role in this and all other cases in KwaZulu-Natal.”
Noko has been criticised for the withdrawal of corruption charges against former KwaZulu-Natal MECs Peggy Nkonyeni and Mike Mabuyakhulu in the “amigos” case in 2012, which involved Uruguayan businessman Gaston Savoi and the sale of water purification plants to the province’s health department.
A decision to drop charges in an assault case against one of Zuma’s wives, Thobeka Zuma, was also criticised.
Noko has been accused of defeating the ends of justice and fraud by former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Major General Johan Booysen.
He claimed that her PowerPoint presentation and prosecution memorandum to NDPP Shaun Abrahams, which resulted in a decision to charge him in the Cato Manor hit squad case, contained deliberate inaccuracies and withheld evidence that exonerated him.
Noko also came under fire for the case against former KwaZulu-Natal judge president Chiman Patel, which was withdrawn as it was about to go to trial. Noko said it was part of her job to withdraw charges that were not warranted.
“Criticisms will always be there in decisions we make, as obviously not everyone will be happy with our decisions,” she said. “There is nothing wrong in the mentioned cases. People only thrive in criticising. Such criticisms are without merit and are not taken seriously.
“The prosecution of the former judge president was decided, in writing, by the former NDPP. Why are they saying it is me?” Noko asked.
She said the decision to withdraw charges against Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni was made “long before” her tenure as DPP. “Because the implementation of that long-taken decision happened to be effected during my tenure, it is seen as mine, and [is] wrong.”
She said an Umlazi prosecutor had withdrawn the case against Thobeka Zuma. “That withdrawal decision by the prosecutor is imputed on me as if I personally, with wrong reasons, withdrew the case,” Noko said. “These criticisms are without merit and smack of agendas against me, for whatever reasons known to those who are levelling them.”
She said preparations were under way for Zuma’s trial, the venue for which would be determined by provincial Judge President Achmat Jappie.
Zuma would first be summoned to appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court, with the matter “hopefully” being transferred to the high court at his second appearance.
This would happen within 14 days, although Zuma’s attorney, Michael Hulley, has indicated that the former president might challenge the decision to proceed with the charges.
JZ’s legal team still has a few cards left to play
Jacob Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, on Thursday met Zuma’s counsel from his corruption case, Kemp J Kemp SC, to discuss their response to the 16 charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering against their client.
The former president’s legal team, led by Kemp, is likely to kick off by challenging the validity of the decision taken by Shaun Abrahams, the national director of public prosecutions, to reject Zuma’s representations for the prosecution to be discontinued.
An application for a permanent stay of prosecution is also on the cards. It is likely to include an assault on the integrity of the forensic report, compiled by KPMG auditor Johan van der Walt, around which the original indictment — as well as the one against Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik — were structured.
During Shaik’s corruption trial, prosecutor Billy Downer SC used the report to build a consolidated picture of the flow of money between Shaik and Zuma. The transactions it detailed corroborated the claims of illegal dealings Downer outlined in a timeline presented to the high court in Durban.
However, KPMG’s role in the South African Revenue Service’s “rogue unit” saga has placed the integrity of its forensic reports in question and Zuma’s legal team will probably use this to discredit the documentary evidence against him.
Hulley had, in a statement released at the weekend, questioned the rationale for the decision by Abrahams, saying they were “likely” to go to court to take the decision on review.
“We are giving consideration to the one-page and somewhat terse response received from [Abrahams] wherein he has advised that the representations made on behalf of Mr Jacob Zuma are unsuccessful,” Hulley said.
“The rationale for this decision is not clearly apparent from the communication, nor is the basis for the refusal. In the circumstances, the likely course of action would be to take [Abrahams’s] decision … on review,’’ he said.
On Wednesday, Hulley met Zuma ahead of the Kemp consultation, telling the Mail & Guardian he would only respond to media queries after the Kemp meeting. At the time of writing, Hulley was not available for comment.