In September 2013 we reported that President Jacob Zuma would turn to the Supreme Court to appeal a high court ruling that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) must hand over the so-called "spy tapes" for scrutiny.
News has just broken that Zuma has lost his appeal – the Supreme Court has dismissed that application, with costs, and will make the previous agreement between the NPA, Democratic Alliance (DA) and Zuma to hand over the tapes, an order of the court.
The NPA now has five days to surrender the unedited tapes and associated transcripts and documents – which are secret recordings of conversations between then Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and former NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka.
Retired appeal court judge Noel Hurt will first review the tapes, in case there are parts that are indeed confidential, said DA leader Helen Zille. The party will then review the tapes and documents to determine if they provide any legal reason for the NPA’s decision in 2008 to drop more than 700 charges of corruption against Zuma.
News24 reports that Zille will be present for the handing down of the court order today.
The DA’s fight
The spy tapes saga has “dragged on for four years, through three hearings (so far) and has cost the DA millions”, wrote Zille in the Cape Argus in July 2013.
The party took its fight to get the contents of the tapes revealed to court after the charges against Zuma were dropped. It wanted the judiciary to assess the validity of the NPA’s argument that the tapes implied political interference. “The outcome will determine whether the politically powerful in South Africa can manipulate the institutions of democracy in their own interests,” wrote Zille, “or whether these institutions have the strength and independence to hold us all, even the president, to account.”
The spy tapes were important, she continued, because the NPA used them as the main reason for its decision, just before the 2009 general election, to drop over 700 counts of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering against Zuma. Zille’s argument is that the NPA has never explained to South Africans how the tapes show a political conspiracy against Zuma, or why it deemed the case unworthy to go ahead.