Jacob Zuma. Picture: 123RF
Jacob Zuma. Picture: 123RF

Controversial KwaZulu-Natal director of public prosecutions Moipone Noko will lead the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) team that considers President Jacob Zuma’s representations on corruption charges.

NPA boss Shaun Abrahams gave Zuma until Thursday to argue why he should not be charged after the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a high court judgment that the 2009 decision to drop charges had been irrational. The president is facing 783 counts of fraud, corruption, racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion.

The Hawks were given the same deadline by the court to find out how many of the 218 witnesses are still available.

This was the culmination of an eight-year legal battle by the DA to have Zuma face his corruption charges. The DA was also invited to make representations and had done so by 10am on Thursday.

Noko was appointed to her position in 2013 by Zuma, despite reportedly being investigated for maladministration, favouritism and abuse of her office. City Press, at the time of her appointment, reported that Noko had decided to withdraw charges of intimidation and harassment against one of Zuma’s wives, Tobeka Madiba-Zuma.

The domestic worker of Madiba-Zuma had reportedly laid a complaint of intimidation against the president’s wife in 2013.

In the past decade the NPA has been accused of protecting Zuma, and Noko’s history could create a perception that she is sympathetic to the president.

NPA spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku would not say whether Zuma had submitted his representations to the prosecuting authority. He said Abrahams had appointed Noko to lead the team, which would consider these because the matter fell within her provincial jurisdiction. "Therefore the most senior prosecutor within that jurisdiction has to lead the team."

Noko would be assisted by Eastern Cape director of public prosecutions Lungi Mahlati; senior deputy director of public prosecutions in the Western Cape Billy Downer; a senior deputy director of public prosecutions, Raymond Mathunjwa; and Bloemfontein regional head Alinicia Coetzee. "Those people will consider the matter and then make recommendations to the national director," Mfaku said.

Downer was one of the senior prosecutors who in 2007 said he believed Zuma should be prosecuted. The charges against Zuma were dropped in 2009 by then acting prosecutions chief Mokotedi Mpshe, who believed there had been political interference when deciding on the date to serve the indictment.

DA federal executive chairman James Selfe said the party had written to Zuma, asking for a copy of his submissions to the NPA so that it could make its arguments in its representations based on that, but had received no response. The party has reserved its right to add to its submission once it knows what Zuma’s submission is.

Selfe said it was fundamental to the DA’s submissions that the prosecuting authority needed to be completely independent and to show that it was.

"We can’t rule out that the SCA [Supreme Court of Appeal] was critical about how the NPA had sided with Zuma during this eight-year legal battle," he said.

This was evidence of the possible perception of bias on its part, Selfe said. "In order to repair that, the NPA needs to be scrupulous in dealing with Zuma’s representations."

Also part of the DA’s submissions was that the NPA was not the right institution to decide on the prosecution and that this was the job of a trial court.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

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