Zuma’s big admission in Appeal Court
FURTHER pressure is mounting on President Jacob Zuma to step down following his own admission that the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to drop 783 criminal charges against him “was irrational”.
Zuma made the admission through his counsel during the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) hearing yesterday in which he and the NPA were trying to appeal a full bench of the Pretoria High Court’s ruling to reinstate criminal charges against him.
This came in the wake of another court application in the Pretoria High Court this week in which the DA asked the court to force Zuma to set up a judicial commission of inquiry, following recommendations by the former public protector, Thuli Madonsela, in her State of Capture report.
In October last year she recommended that a commission be set up within 30 days of her tabling the report.
However, Zuma opposed the move and asked the same court to review Madonsela’s recommendation.
Yesterday, Zuma surprised many when for the first time, he admitted that the former national director of public prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe, had been wrong when he dropped the charges against him.
The NPA also admitted that Mpshe had used the wrong legal statute to withdraw the charges.
Initially, though, the NPA’s legal counsel, Hilton Epstein, SC, had wanted the court to uphold the appeal against the reinstatement of the charges.
Epstein later backtracked when the judges of the SCA pointed out several inadequacies in Mpshe’s decision.
The judges said the decision to charge Zuma was the decision of prosecutors and not of the former NPA’s head, Leonard McCarthy, whom Epstein had earlier accused of having “manipulated the charges against Zuma”.
Zuma’s concession gave weight to the call by the ANC’s alliance partners, Cosatu and the SACP, for him to step down as president.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the concession Zuma had made in the Supreme Court yesterday, through his legal counsel Kemp J Kemp, SC, was sufficient grounds for him to step down and to focus on the impending charges against him.
Ntshalintshali said the NPA’s reasons for appealing the reinstatement of the charges against Zuma were not convincing. “All people are equal before the law,” he said.
Ntshalintshali said Zuma had to be given an opportunity to state his case before a court of law.
“He must step down like (former deputy minister of higher education) Mduduzi Manana and answer to the allegations against him,” Ntshalintshali said.
He conceded that Cosatu was eagerly waiting the final outcome of the SCA ruling.
The SACP’s acting spokesperson, Mhlekwa Nxumalo, was equally scathing about Zuma’s concession.
“Our view as the SACP is that the president has not been consistent in this matter. When the initial charges arose, the president painted himself as a victim of a political programme of some within the ANC to use state agencies against him.
“He used the same tactics during the Nkandla saga,” Nxumalo pointed out.
“In the Nkandla matter, he made all sorts of negative comments about his own comrades only to later apologise to the nation,” he added.
The reinstatement of charges against Zuma was also set to be a big blow to presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, whose campaign is closely associated with the president after he endorsed her.
This also comes hard on the heels of the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal nullifying the outcome of the ANC provincial elective conference in that province in November 2015 where Zuma’s allies were elected.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said it was too early to comment, adding that “it would be ill-advised to comment before the Supreme Court of Appeal makes its final ruling on the matter”.
NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said the SCA was likely to refer its decision to the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, for a decision to continue with the charges against Zuma.
The DA, however, maintained that they would do everything in their power to ensure that Zuma was criminally prosecuted.
The DA’s federal council chairperson James Selfe said: “Even if it takes us 18 years or more, we are going to get to a situation where Jacob G Zuma gets to appear in court.”
Screengrabs of advocate Hilton Epstein SC, representing the National Prosecuting Authority, and advocate Kemp J Kemp SC, representing President Jacob Zuma in the Supreme Court of Appeal, Bloemfontein.