The North Gauteng High Court has found that the former National Prosecuting Authority chief, Mokotedi Mpshe, acted impulsively and irrationally when he decided to drop the charges of corruption laid against president Jacob Zuma in 2009.
The court ruled that the NPA should review its decision and set it aside, saying that Zuma should face the charges as set out on the indictment in which the president was facing 783 charges of corruption.
The ruling is the second blow to Zuma in as many months, following a recent Constitutional Court ruling saying the president violated the country’s top laws in dealing with the Nkandla saga.
In its ruling, the High court said that Mpshe’s decision to drop the charges was inexplicable, and that the turnaround was irrational. It said that his feelings of anger and betrayal caused him to act impulsively – and that even after learning of the contents of the so-called ‘spy tapes’, he was in a position to proceed with the case.
This sets the groundwork for the next steps in the case which has been going on for nearly a decade.
In September 2008, Pietermaritzburg High Court judge, Chris Nicholson, dismissed criminal charges against Zuma, citing a political conspiracy to influence the case by former president, Thabo Mbeki, and others.
Nicholson’s decision was taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals, and overturned. Zuma subsequently appealed this at the Constitutional Court, setting in motion a direct approach to the NPA to make written and oral representations on why the case should be dropped.
Explaining the NPA’s decision to drop the charges, former national director of public prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe, on April 6 2009, cited what became known as the “spy tapes” as the reason .
They are recordings of telephone conversations between then Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and former National Prosecuting Authority head Bulelani Ngcuka, and apparently show political interference in the decision to charge Zuma.
On April 7 2009, the charges against Zuma were withdrawn in the High Court in Durban.
Zuma was sworn in for his first term as president in May that year, following general elections.
According to the DA’s federal executive, James Selfe, this is unlikely to be the end of the line as the High Court ruling will likely be challenged in the SCA, and ultimately end up in the Constitutional Court.
What corruption charges, asks Zuma
In response to the ruling, the Presidency said that the charges were formally withdrawn in 2009, and as such, there are no pending charges against the president. Full statement here:
Today on 29 April 2016, the Full Bench of the North Gauteng High Court delivered judgement in a matter in which the Applicant asked the court to, amongst others, review, correct and set aside the decision of the Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (Adv Mpshe), taken on the President, in accordance with charges contained in an indictment of 27 December 2007 and also to declare that the decision of the Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions to be inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, and invalid.
The court has ordered that the decision taken by the Acting Head of the National Prosecuting Authority on 1 April 2009 to discontinue the prosecution against President Jacob Zuma should be reviewed and set aside.
These charges were formally withdrawn by the High Court in Pietermaritzburg during April 2009 and as such there is no pending litigation before court against President Zuma.
As a party to the proceedings, the President has noted the decision of the court and will give consideration to the judgement and its consequences and the remedies available in terms of our law.