He would’ve gone down
|Reporter||Mzilikazi Wa Afrika|
We had a good case against Jacob Zuma, says prosecutor
The man who was to prosecute ANC president Jacob Zuma is disappointed after the two failed to square up in court after charges against Umsholozi were dropped this week.
Speaking to Sunday World yesterday, Advocate Billy Downer said he was disappointed to see their eight years of investigations going down the drain.
He says: “Of course everyone at the NPA is disappointed. I am not the only one.
“We have uncovered what we should have covered, won every single legal round against Zuma in court and now the charges are dropped.
“I don’t think there will be any chance in hell of reopening the case. We had a good case but now we can’t prove it in any court.”
Downer said two senior special investigators were leading the case supported by five other staff members.
He adds: “We spent millions of rands on this case. We went to France, Mauritius, Scotland, Switzerland and England gathering evidence. We managed to put the pieces of the puzzle together and now nobody will know what we uncovered.”
He says the investigation against Zuma – then coined as Mr X in the Scorpions investigators affidavit to raid Zuma’s offices and residence as well as Thint offices in Mauritius and France – started in October 2000.
Zuma was the deputy president of South Africa at the time.
He explains: “We were investigating the arms deal and also probing Schabir Shaik when we came across a payment made to Zuma by the Durban businessman.
“Bulelani Ngcuka, as the NPA boss at the time, authorised the investigation against Zuma in August 2001 after we found enough evidence. The rest is history as we all know what happened.”
Shaik was Zuma’s close friend and his financial adviser before he was arrested.
The NPA claimed during the Shaik trial that Zuma or his family received 783 payments totalling R4072499,85 from Shaik or his companies between October 25 1995 and July 1 2005.
The Zuma saga started when one of the Scorpions investigators, advocate Gerda Ferreira, submitted a shocking affidavit at the Durban High Court alleging that Shaik had requested a R500000 “bribe” for Zuma from
Thompson CSF – one of the companies that benefited from the government’s multi-billion rand arms deal – in an encrypted fax.
The infamous fax drawn up by Thomson CSF (now Thint) executive Alain Thetard was sent to his head office in Paris.
In her affidavit, Ferreira also alleged that Shaik and Zuma met with Thetard in Durban in March 2000.
It is also alleged that Shaik had indicated to Thetard – as recorded in the encrypted fax – that Zuma had allegedly requested R500000 a year in return for his protection in the looming government’s arms deal investigations and his support for future Thomson projects.
Although Zuma told parliament that he
knew nothing about such a meeting, Shaik told the court during his trial that the meeting did happen – but stressed that it was about a Thomson donation to the Jacob Zuma Education Trust and not a bribe.
Ngcuka called a press conference in August 2003, where he announced that although “prima facie evidence” against Zuma existed, he would not prosecute him.
Before this press conference – on July 24, 2003 – Ngcuka also had a controversial “off the record” briefing with selected editors at a Sandton hotel, where he reportedly made “gravely defamatory matters” against Zuma.
Ngcuka also allegedly revealed that Zuma could not meet his monthly financial obligations.
Judge Hilary Squires found Shaik guilty in Durban High Court and sentenced him to 15 years in jail in June 2005.
Squires rejected Shaik’s claims that the money he wanted from Thint was to be a donation for the education trust and not a bribe relating to arms deal.
The judge said: “It is nothing short of ridiculous and we regard it as false. We regard Shaik’s version as a lie.”
Former president Thabo Mbeki seized the opportunity and fired Zuma as his deputy and replaced him with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who happened to be the wife of Bulelani Ngcuka – the same NPA boss who authorised NPA investigation against Zuma.
Zuma told everybody that he was fired from cabinet and prosecuted for fraud and corruption as a “political conspiracy”.
Many people believed that Zuma’s political conspiracy utterance was “hogwash and rubbish” to divert attention from his criminal case – until Monday this week, when acting NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe released the transcript of the tape recordings between Bulelani Ngcuka and Leonard McCarthy, who was Ngcuka’s deputy.
Mpshe also revealed that the NPA was dropping all the charges against Zuma after the tapes confirmed that there was indeed a political conspiracy regarding the timing of laying of charges against Zuma.
The tape recording revealed the extent to which McCarthy and Ngcuka, who was no longer employed by the NPA, allegedly discussed and planned how and when to charge Zuma and leak sensitive information about the case to the media.
The recording were allegedly leaked to the Zuma camp by Arthur Fraser, deputy head at NIA, who is a brother of Pubic Service and Administration minister of Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi.
After receiving the tape, Zuma’s lawyer Michael Hulley informed the NPA about the tapes and threatened to reveal the content of the recording should the prosecuting authority drag his client to court.
Now angry Zuma supporters are demanding that Mbeki, Ngcuka and McCarthy be charged for their alleged roles in conspiring against Zuma.
The timeline to the zuma
1995: The new government announces a
comprehensive review of South Africa’s defence capabilities.
1996: A cabinet committee chaired by then deputy president Thabo Mbeki approves the “strategic defence acquisition”, at a cost of R33bn.
1996-1998: Comprehensive review of South Africa’s defence needs involving, among others, Parliament, the public, and the military.
November 1998: The cabinet announces preferred suppliers for the procurement of equipment for the defence force.
November 1999: The cabinet announces it will go ahead with purchase of planes, helicopters, corvettes and submarines at a cost of R29,9bn over 12 years. An anonymous document, purportedly from concerned ANC MPs, raises questions about the proposed arms deal. PAC MP Patricia de Lille raises concerns in Parliament about the arms deal. De Lille hands over information to corruption-buster Judge Willem Heath.
December 1999: Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota signs arms deal.
January 2000: Finance Minister Trevor Manuel signs loan totalling R43,4bn to finance package.
September 2000: Auditor-general releases a special report to Parliament. November 2000: Parliament’s watchdog committee on public accounts (Scopa) calls for a multi-agency probe into the arms deal, also involving Judge Heath. J
anuary 2001: Fallout among political parties in Scopa after ANC claims it never singled out Judge Heath for inclusion in the probe. ANC reshuffles members on committee and demotes independent ANC MP Andrew Feinstein. President Thabo Mbeki excludes Judge Heath from inquiry, ostensibly because of Constitutional Court judgment saying a judge cannot head the special investigating unit. Three cabinet ministers launch a public attack on Scopa and accuse it of incompetence.
February 2001: Auditor-general reports back to Scopa on investigation. Manuel rejects claims that the public was misled about the costs of the arms deal, which has risen to at least R43bn.
March 2001: Sunday Times publishes article about ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni and his luxury four-wheel-drive vehicle received from a company with an interest in the arms deal.
April 2001: National director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka says at least 24 people are under investigation for alleged corruption and fraud in the arms deal.
May 2001: De Lille questioned by the Scorpions in Cape Town about corruption claims. Three investigating agencies hold controversial public hearings into the deal.
June 2001: Mbeki accepts Judge Heath’s resignation as judge.
July 2001: German investigators in Munich begin probe into European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS), one of the companies at the heart of the arms deal and alleged kickbacks.
August 2001: Feinstein quits, citing his party’s handling of the arms deal.
October 2001: Yengeni arrested and released on R10000 bail, along with suspended EADS head Michael Woerfel, on charges of corruption and fraud arising from the arms deal. New row erupts over the probe following claims that cabinet members rejected some aspects of the auditor-general’s draft report. Scorpions raid premises in France, Mauritius and Durban and confiscates documents relating to the deal, now standing at R66bn .
November 2001: Auditor-general submits forensic investigation report into the arms deal to Parliament.
2001: The cabinet writes a letter to Scopa chairperson Gavin Woods, lambasting the committee for its stance on investigation
2002: Shamin “Chippy” Shaik resigns from the defence department following revelations that he may have improperly benefited his brother Schabir’s companies during the bidding process for the arms deal.
November 2002: Scorpions send Zuma a list of 35 questions to answer.
August 2003: NPA head Ngcuka announces he has a “prima facie case of corruption” against Zuma.
September 2003: Mbeki appoints the Hefer commission to probe claims that Ngcuka was an apartheid spy. Zuma files a complaint with the public protector against NPA for abuse of his rights. Public protector Lawrence Mushwana eventually finds in Zuma’s favour.
October 2004: Schabir Shaik’s criminal trial commences in the Durban High Court.
June 2, 2005: After a long trial Shaik is sentenced to a 15-year prison sentence for corruption and fraud.
June 14, 2005: Mbeki sacks Zuma from his job as deputy president, setting the stage for intense infighting within the governing ANC.
June 20, 2005: NPA announces that it will charge Zuma with corruption and fraud.
September 20, 2006: The case against Zuma is dismissed on technical grounds.
December 18, 2007. Zuma elected president on the ANC at the party’s conference at the city of Polokwane, defeating Mbeki.
December 28, 2007. The NPA again charges Zuma with corruption and fraud, adding charges of racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion for good measure.
September 12, 2008. Judge Chris Nicholson holds the charges against Zuma are unlawful on procedural grounds and says there has been political interference. The ruling in the case prompts the ANC to “recall” Mbeki from the presidency, and led to a split within the governing party.
January 12, 2009: The Supreme Court of Appeal upholds an appeal by the NPA against Judge Nicholson’s ruling.
March 3, 2009: Schabir Shaik released from jail on medical parole.
April 6, 2009: Citing evidence of political manipulation of the case, the NPA opts not to pursue its case against Zuma.
With acknowledgements to Mzilikazi Wa Afrika and Sunday World.