Paul Hoffman SC provides a useful summary of events relating to the withdrawal of the criminal charges concerning the President.

Here are some extracts from the article Zuma’s chickens are roosting at his personal ‘gates of hell’  written by Paul Hoffman SC, who is with the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, and which was first published in Business Day.

JAMES Selfe is the Democratic Alliance (DA) MP who has done most of the running since Helen Zille hand-delivered an urgent application for the review and setting aside of the prosecutorial decision to withdraw 783 charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering against then private citizen Jacob Zuma in April 2009 to the North Gauteng High Court in the same month.

Much water has flowed beneath the political bridge since then.   In May 2009, Zuma became president of South Africa, having been elected leader of the African National Congress (ANC) in Polokwane in December 2007.   He plans to run for re-election in Mangaung next month.

If the tapes were ever confidential, which is open to considerable doubt, their “confidentiality” has been forever compromised by the publication in the Sunday Times of a summary of 300 pages of leaked material, as well as extracts from the tape recordings upon which reliance was placed as a pretext for withdrawing charges against Zuma.

The recently leaked documents show that the advice of legal heavyweights Wim Trengove and Andrew Breitenbach was sought in relation to the relevance of the content of the tapes.

They were unanimous in their agreement that this should not give Zuma a free pass.

To his credit, Mpshe did, when announcing the withdrawal of the prosecution, insist that the prosecution service remained convinced of its ability to secure a conviction on the merits of the charges so withdrawn.

The constitutionally guaranteed independence of the prosecution service was compromised by Mpshe’s decision to bow to the not inconsiderable political pressure being brought to bear on him.

His prospective accused was, at that time, the most popular politician in the ANC and its candidate for the presidency in the elections that were held in May 2009.

Threats of popular uprisings, damage to the economy and the undermining of the 2010 Soccer World Cup were used to persuade the hapless Mpshe to withdraw the charges.   The fact that he was but an acting chief prosecutor also rendered him more vulnerable to political manipulation; it is the president who makes the appointment to this key post.

Mpshe never did rise to that rank; the honour was given to an even more malleable cadre, Menzi Simelane, in circumstances that did not stand up to constitutional scrutiny.

Yet, if the notion of equality before the law enshrined in the bill of rights means anything, it is imperative for the reputation of the National Prosecuting Authority and for the proper administration of justice that the trial should proceed and that Zuma should have his day in court.

It is possible that the day in court will be no more than a day if a suitable plea bargain is struck.   The trouble with a plea bargain is that it is likely to be one that puts an end to Zuma’s political career.   It does not seem that the ANC is ready to relinquish its leader, despite the strong views among the professional prosecutors that they will be able to secure convictions in the case against Zuma.   Why any political party would want a leader under so considerable a cloud is best explained by the party in question.

A plea bargain would also not fit in with the “Stalingrad strategy” which Zuma has hitherto adopted with so much success at slowing down the criminal case and the review proceedings in which he is involved, not as head of state, but as a potential accused in a serious corruption prosecution.   The building of the bunker at Nkandla, a home improvement that no other president has seen fit to acquire, may be the last gambit in the “Stalingrad strategy” as the chickens inevitably come home to roost for Zuma, at his personal “gates of hell”, as Selfe puts it.