Right now, as you read this newsletter, the president of South Africa stands legally accused of multiple criminal offences.
Last Friday, the North Gauteng High Court ruled that the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) decision in early April 2009 to drop charges against Jacob Zuma was irrational. This ruling automatically reinstates the original charges, which were on 783 counts of corruption, racketeering, fraud and money-laundering that Zuma racked up during the R70 billion Arms Deal.
It is only thanks to the DA’s determination to see justice done that the matter has been reviewed, and the truth revealed. The truth is that these charges should never have been dropped.
In Wednesday’s budget debate in Parliament, it became apparent that the ANC does not believe that the ruling implies that Zuma is effectively charged. They clearly believe that it is up to the NPA to take the decision of whether or not to re-charge Zuma.
Or rather, they choose to believe this, because the NPA is one of the many institutions in SA that has been captured by Zuma and the ANC: it is headed by Advocate Shaun Abrahams and his deputy, Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, both of whom are loyal ANC cadres, deployed precisely because they will act to protect Zuma and the ANC rather than South Africa.
But the wording of the judgment is unequivocal: “Mr Zuma should face the charges as outlined in the indictment.” Which means that the NPA is now legally obliged to pick up where it left off on 31 March 2009 and continue with prosecuting Jacob Zuma.
The DA has fought long and hard for this outcome. South Africans have had enough of corruption, and it has become clear that corruption is long-standing and pervasive in the ANC. After all, Shabir Shaik, who facilitated the deals through which Zuma racked up these criminal charges, was the original Gupta who captured Zuma. Our country desperately needs and wants to see justice done. But the ball is now firmly in the NPA’s court, and the NPA has in turn been captured by Zuma’s ANC.
So where to from here?
If Zuma or the NPA want these charges dropped, one option would be to seek leave to appeal the judgement. This is unlikely to be successful given that it was a unanimous decision by a full bench of the High Court, headed up by Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba. The NPA, or Jacob Zuma himself, could petition the Supreme Court of Appeal for leave to appeal, but once again, this is unlikely to be granted, after such a definitive ruling.
Alternatively, Abrahams could decide to drop the charges, giving an entirely new reason. But he will find it extremely difficult to find rational grounds for this, given that he won’t be able to use “abuse of process”, because the court has just ruled that that is for a court to decide, not the NPA. And he certainly can’t cite a lack of evidence. Advocate Billy Downer, who headed the original NPA investigation into the charges, has already said on record that they were confident of a successful prosecution.
The only other option would be for Zuma to apply to the court for a permanent stay of prosecution. This is, once again, unlikely to be granted. But it will buy him time. And this much is certain: Jacob Zuma will continue to do everything in his power to delay the process.
For the past seven years he has employed every trick in the book, legal or illegal, to avoid his day in court, and he will do his best to draw it out for another four years, until his term as president is through. He will do this at great taxpayer expense, and with the ANC’s support.
Equally resolutely, as we have done for the past seven years, the DA will fight to ensure that Jacob Zuma has his day in court, in order to establish that South Africa has a single system of law that applies equally to all.
I want to make it clear that the DA does not specifically wish to see Mr Zuma in jail. We simply want our country and the world to see that South Africa’s justice system works, and that everyone, be they a taxi driver or the president, gets equal treatment before the law.
Still, justice delayed is justice denied. It is outrageous that two decades will have passed between Zuma’s committing of the crimes for which he now stands accused and his day of reckoning.
These charges, had they not been suspended for seven years while this “spy tapes saga” played out, would almost certainly have prevented Jacob Zuma from becoming president. South Africans have endured seven years of a Zuma presidency; seven years of disaster, damage and disgrace; seven years of a presidency we now know should not have been possible.
The Democratic Alliance now calls on Advocate Shaun Abrahams to proceed with this prosecution, without fear or favour. It will be seven years late but not a moment too soon.
South Africans have had enough of Zuma and an ANC that spends public money protecting him. On 3 August, South Africans can vote for a DA government that stops corruption and makes sure that all are equal before the law. A vote for the DA is a vote that stops corruption.