S.African opposition fights to reopen Zuma bribery case
South Africa's main opposition party went to court Wednesday in a bid to force prosecutors to reopen a corruption case against President Jacob Zuma.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), the largest opposition party in parliament, argued in the Supreme Court of Appeal that it should be granted access to files that led prosecutors to drop a case against Zuma on charges he received bribes in a multi-billion-dollar arms deal.
“If this decision was taken for political considerations, then it fundamentally undermines the rule of law,” DA lawmaker James Selfe told AFP.
National Prosecuting Authority attorney Paul Kennedy argued in the court in the central city of Bloemfontein that the files were too vast and involved “highly controversial information”, according to the Sapa news agency.
But the DA said it only wanted access to tapes of the bugged phone calls that led prosecutors to drop charges against Zuma in 2009 on grounds of political interference in the case.
Known in South Africa as the “spy tapes”, the recordings reportedly contain conversations between former NPA chief Bulelani Ngcuka and police special operations boss Leonard McCarthy, whose phone had been bugged as part of a criminal investigation.
Zuma was at the time just coming off a bitter dispute with former president Thabo Mbeki for leadership of the ruling African National Congress. Zuma’s lawyers somehow obtained the tapes and persuaded the NPA to drop the case against him based on their contents.
The decision cleared Zuma’s path to the presidency but has clouded his time in office.
Prosecutors argued Wednesday that the DA did not have legal standing to challenge prosecutors’ decision because the party was not directly affected by it.
But DA attorney Sean Rosenberg told the court the DA believed there was a constitutional right to proper prosecutions, and that it was in the interest of the party’s members and that of the general public for Zuma to stand trial.
The appeals court must now decide whether to send the case back to the high court, which previously ruled the DA had not shown its rights or those of the broader public had been violated.
The court did not announce a date for its decision.