Lawyers concede quashing of Zuma charges ‘irrational’
THE Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein yesterday reserved judgment after President Jacob Zuma’s lawyers admitted that the quashing of hundreds of criminal charges against him was “irrational”.
Shortly before the 2009 polls, after Zuma had won the contest for the leadership of the ANC, then acting National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Mokotedi Mpshe, withdrew 783 charges linked to the multi-million rand 1999 arms deal.
Since then, the DA has challenged the matter in court.
Last May the North Gauteng High Court ordered that Zuma must face all the charges.
The president then took the matter to the SCA.
Legal representatives for the NPA and Zuma tried to persuade the court to allow the appeal. Two days had been set aside to hear legal teams’ oral representations, but by lunchtime they had wrapped up the matter. But not before the NPA’s legal counsel conceded that Mpshe had “used the wrong power” to withdraw charges against Zuma.
The NPA said it accepted that Mpshe could not rely upon section 179 of the constitution, as he had earlier declared, as this section did not allow the prosecuting authority to review its own decisions.
Advocate Kemp J Kemp, counsel for Zuma, made the same concession. He also conceded that a decision to withdraw charges based solely on the timing of the indictment was irrational.
Arguments around what was to happen with the legal proceedings against Zuma dominated the rest of proceedings.
“If the decision to prosecute stands unchallenged, and the attempt to undo it is found invalid, what is the effect?” asked Justice Mohamed Navsa.
Kemp conceded that the decision to prosecute Zuma then still stood, but said it didn’t mean court proceedings against Zuma could be continued where they left off. The legal process had to be “kickstarted” again by, for instance, the serving of an indictment.
The chairman of the DA’s federal executive, James Selfe, said from concessions made by the lawyers and questions from the bench, it seemed the court was poised to set aside the decision to scrap Zuma’s prosecution.
“This opens the way for Jacob Zuma, finally, to have the day in court he has been asking for, for 15 years.
“Like any other citizen, he must face up to the mountain of charges against him.”
Selfe said he hoped the court would give clarity on how the NPA should deal with a revived prosecution. However, should it be necessary, the DA would take further legal action to ensure Zuma was charged, raising the spectre of the party taking on the NPA.
“For far too long the ANC political elite has been allowed to escape accountability simply because they are connected. “All citizens must face up to charges brought against them, and the same must be true for Jacob Zuma,” he said.