South Africa needs its Lula moment. Lula da Silva, Brazilian president from 2003 to 2011, is being prosecuted on charges of money laundering and bribery. We too need confirmation that no-one is above the law. This is what the DA’s “spy tapes” case is all about.
President Zuma has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid the opportunity to clear his name in the eyes of 55 million South Africans, whose money he allegedly stole in the infamous Arms Deal of 1999. This surely says as much about his guilt as any court of law ever could.
Twenty million rand of public money, seven years and seven court cases later, on 1-3 March 2016, the court finally heard the DA’s argument that the 2009 decision to drop charges against President Zuma on 783 counts of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering, was irrational, and was therefore unlawful.
This long drawn out story has become known as the “spy tapes” saga. This is because the charges against Zuma were dropped by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in 2009 on the basis of a recorded conversation between Bulelani Ngcuka, then head of the NPA, and Leonard McCarthy, then head of the Scorpions (the crime fighting unit that was replaced by the Hawks in 2008).
The DA immediately indicated it would challenge the decision to drop the charges. We were thus entitled to the tapes on which basis the decision was made. However, the NPA refused to hand them over. It took another four court cases over five years, but the DA eventually got hold of the “spy tapes” in 2014, which finally enabled the review of the decision to drop charges against President Zuma, heard on 1-3 March.
And still this is not the end of the story. Now we wait for a decision. Either way, the outcome will be appealed, and we are sure the matter will end up before the Constitutional Court.
If the DA is successful, and we are reasonably confident that we will be, then the decision to drop the charges will be found to have been unlawful. The DA cannot ask the court to reinstate the charges. That is for the NPA to do. But our case opens the way for the charges against Zuma to be reinstated.
During the past seven years of his presidency, Mr Zuma has abused his presidential powers in order to prepare for this possible outcome. In deploying two loyal cronies, Advocates Shaun Abrahams and Nomgcobo Jiba, as head and deputy head of the National Prosecuting Authority, he has essentially captured the institution.
These are indeed extraordinary lengths that Mr Zuma has gone to, to avoid his day in court. One hardly needs more proof of his guilt.
Nevertheless, there is now a good chance that Mr Zuma will eventually be prosecuted and that he will get his day in court to finally answer to the charges. When he does, he will face what is surely the best-prepared criminal case in South African judicial history.
These are also extraordinary lengths that the DA has gone to, in order to give the President his day in court. Many have asked if it has been worth the effort and expense. To which we answer: absolutely.
Firstly, the DA has established that no-one, no matter how high and well-connected, is above the law, including President Zuma. This is absolutely crucial for the success of any democracy. As we have seen in Brazil this week, with former President Lula’s arrest, it is critical that no politician ever considers themselves untouchable.
Secondly, we have now established in law that we have a legal right to bring proceedings against the National Prosecuting Authority.
These are essential supporting beams in the architecture of our Constitution. While the independent institutions it envisages in Chapter 9 are being captured through the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment, our Constitution needs all the support it can get.
So hopefully Mr Zuma will have his day in court. And perhaps he’ll have his day in jail too. South Africans are poorer for having had a president such as Zuma, but we are stronger for having fought back so resolutely.
This is what the DA does. We fight for change that puts South Africa first. By voting for the DA in the upcoming local elections, you too can bring about change that puts South Africa first.