Lawyers con­cede quash­ing of Zuma charges ‘ir­ra­tional’

Cape Times - - NEWS - African News Agency

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.

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