Willie Hofmeyr. Picture: SOWETAN
Willie Hofmeyr. Picture: SOWETAN

Undue importance was given to the spy tapes in the decision to drop the graft charges against former president Jacob Zuma, deputy national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Willie Hofmeyr said on Monday.

Hofmeyr’s role in dropping the charges against Zuma was placed under scrutiny by Norman Arendse, counsel for his suspended fellow deputy Nomgcobo Jiba.  Jiba and suspended head of the specialised commercial crimes unit Lawrence Mrwebi are currently appearing before a commission of inquiry set up by president Cyril Ramaphosa to determine the fitness of the two to hold office. Retired Constitutional Court judge Justice Yvonne Mokgoro is chairing the commission.

Cross examining Hofmeyr, Arendse on Monday shifted the focus from his client and went on the offensive. Arendse took Hofmeyr through parts of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment which upheld the high court judgment that found that the decision by then acting NDPP Mokotedi Mpshe to drop the charges against Zuma was irrational and unlawful.

In dealing with Hofmeyr, the judgment said that he achieved the opposite of advancing the independence and integrity of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Hofmeyr told the inquiry, in line with a concession by the NPA in front of the SCA, that there was a justified criminal charge Zuma had to face, but that they had focused on the tapes which pointed to political interference.

The tapes were of an intercepted recording of conversations between then NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka and head of the now-defunct specialist investigative directorate the Scorpions Leonard McCarthy.

The intercepted conversations between the two dealt with the timing of when the indictment should be served on Zuma and if it should be served before the ANC’s 2007 elective conference in Polokwane or after.

The indictment was served after Zuma had then been elected by a landslide to the ANC presidency after defeating  former president Thabo Mbeki who was vying for a third term as ANC president.

Zuma was recharged last year on 16 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering, but will head to court on May 21 to argue for a permanent stay of prosecution. 

Hofmeyr conceded that he and some of his colleagues gave “undue importance to what was being said on the recordings” and that he had “overreacted” on the alleged political interference in the matter.

The SCA held that the timing of the indictment did not have an impact on the case, as there was nothing wrong with the prosecutorial process.

Hofmeyr disputed that their decision to drop the charges based on the tapes was based on political considerations, and that his consideration was about the integrity of the NPA, “particularly given that people in the NPA did play politics”.