Local and international journalists sat attentively on Friday morning as the High Court in Pretoria started delivering judgement in the application by the Democratic Alliance for review of the National Prosecuting Authority’s decision seven years ago to drop 783 criminal charges against President Jacob Zuma.
After 10am, a full bench of judges, led by Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba, with Judge Cynthia Pretorius and Judge Billy Mothle, set court proceedings in motion.
Ledwaba said he would read the full judgement on record because of the public interest in the matter. He started off by reading the lengthy background information which had led to the DA seeking a review of the NPA’s controversial decision.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane and federal executive chairman James Selfe were in court on Friday.
By 6am, several outside broadcast vehicles were lined on Madiba Street, outside the court premises.
The DA is hoping that, should the court find in its favour, the decision that paved the way for Zuma to be elected President weeks later, could be reversed.
“We contend that the decision taken by the then acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Mokotedi Mpshe, was irrational, unreasonable and made with an ulterior political motive. This could have the effect of reinstating the charges against President Zuma,” Selfe, the chairman of the DA’s federal executive, said.
Mpshe threw the case out on the basis that the so-called spy tapes – recordings of tapped phone calls between senior officials in the Thabo Mbeki administration – suggested they manipulated the timing of Zuma’s indictment on fraud, corruption and racketeering charges for political reasons.
The DA maintained that this was not sufficient reason to withdrew the charges, and Selfe reiterated that his party believed that issue should instead have been aired in trial court.
He acknowledged that Friday’s judgment would not be the final chapter in the long-running legal saga, because Zuma was certain to appeal if it went against him and the DA would do the same if it went the other way.
“Whoever loses this round is bound to appeal to the SCA and doubtless, in due course, to the Constitutional Court. It has taken seven years to get to this point in the litigation, and the finalisation of any appeals process will no doubt take a few years more thereafter,” said Selfe.
“But ultimately, the time and the cost is necessary to remind the President, the NPA and South Africa as a whole, that every decision to prosecute or not to prosecute must be made without fear or favour, and that even number one is not above the law.”