NPA says it is ready to face Zuma in court
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has rejected any suggestion that it is struggling to rebut Jacob Zuma’s application that corruption charges against him be permanently dropped.
The prosecution authority said it only missed a court deadline to do so because, among other reasons, of "the voluminous nature of the papers filed" by the former president’s legal team.
It is the first time in the 17-year history of the corruption investigation and prosecution of Zuma, that the NPA, which has routinely accused Zuma of using court process to delay his trial, has failed to meet a court deadline.
The state is adamant that this delay will not affect the hearing of Zuma’s stay application, which is due to take place from May 20-23.
The state’s failure to respond to Zuma’s application on time, however, arguably demonstrates that the NPA — which fought tooth and nail to defend the decision to withdraw the prosecution against Zuma — may be finding it difficult to again insist that he must face charges.
The NPA, through the state attorney, had tried unsuccessfully to persuade Zuma’s lawyers to allow it until March 11 to respond to his application for a permanent stay of prosecution. In that application, Zuma argues that the case against him is so compromised by undue delays, political interference and prosecutorial misconduct that it cannot continue.
Zuma’s attorney Daniel Mantsha refused the state’s request for more time, forcing the NPA to formally apply to the high court for condonation of its late filing.
"This case may well be a career obsession for some in your legal team and a political game for the NPA, but in fairness, it is about our client’s life," Mantsha wrote to the NPA last week.
Lead Zuma prosecutor Billy Downer in 2018 assured the high court in Pietermaritzburg that the state would be able to answer Zuma’s case within a month.
After Zuma filed his application on November 18, the state agreed that it would answer on March 1.
In February, Zuma filed an additional affidavit, in which he used documents secured from the NPA under threat of legal action, to argue that then NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka had defied the advice of his own prosecutors by not putting him on trial with his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik.
According to Zuma, this was because Ngcuka feared Zuma would be exonerated.
It is the state’s case that Shaik and his company Nkobi Holdings made 783 payments to Zuma, totaling more than R4m, in the 10-year period between October 25 1995 and July 1 2005.
In return for these payments, the state says Zuma abused his formal position as MEC and as deputy president of the ANC to do unlawful favours for Shaik and his company.
The state further alleged that French arms company Thales conspired with Shaik and Zuma to pay him R500,000 a year as a bribe in exchange for Zuma’s protection from any investigations related to the arms deal concluded by the ANC government in the late 1990s and was mired in allegations of corruption.
While Shaik claimed this payment was in fact a donation to the Jacob Zuma Education Trust, the high court in Durban rejected that claim as "nothing short of ridiculous".
Zuma denies any wrongdoing and says certain of the state witnesses against him were unwilling to testify.
The former president has also strongly suggested that the then Scorpions unit had charged him with tax evasion against the wishes of the SA Revenue Service.
Just days before it was due to address these claims, the NPA brought a court application to compel Zuma to hand over 17 sets of documents that the former president referred to in his application, which the NPA claimed it did not have.
These documents included NPA and Scorpions responses to letters from Zuma’s previous lawyers, media reports and statements and Zuma’s responses to questions from the Scorpions.
Mantsha is adamant that the state was in possession of all the documents that it sought, and slammed the application to compel Zuma to hand them over as nothing more than a veiled delaying tactic...