Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma could yet petition the Supreme Court of Appeal after the high court denied him leave to appeal a ruling that he must face hundreds of corruption charges in a setback some six weeks before municipal elections.
His application, joined to that of the National Prosecuting Authority, was dismissed by a full bench of the High Court in Pretoria on Friday.
The court held that leave to appeal was only granted if there was a reasonable chance of success, and that the fact that the case was of interest to the public was not cause to grant it.
In April, the same court ruled that a 2009 decision by the NPA to drop 783 charges linked to the arms deal the government inked a decade earlier was irrational and said he should answer these.
Zuma now finds himself in a similar legal situation to his communications minister, Faith Muthambi, who on Thursday turned to the SCA after she was denied leave by the Western Cape High Court to appeal a ruling that invalidated her appointment of SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
But the political stakes are higher for a president who has in recent months shed support in his own party following revelations of the influence the Gupta family exercised over executive decisions.
The Democratic Alliance, which has fought a six-year legal battle to have the charges against Zuma brought back, expects him to challenge the high court decision.
James Selfe, the chairman of the DA’s federal executive, welcomed Friday’s court ruling and said Zuma had the right to turn to the SCA, and eventually the Constitutional Court, but was bound to lose there too.
“The president and the NPA are well within their rights to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court however this move is likely to be unsuccessful. As such any attempts to pursue this course of action would be a spectacular waste of taxpayers’ money.”
The official opposition contends that the high court ruling amounted to an order to the NPA to reinstate the charges, and not to review the decision by then acting prosecutions head Mokotedi Mpshe to withdraw them.
“The full bench of the court determined that a different court would not find differently in this regard and that in fact that the government respondents failed to advance any legitimate reasons to see leave to appeal granted,” Selfe said.
“On this basis the prosecution against President Jacob Zuma must proceed and he must have his day in court as he has always claimed he wanted. The charges are in fact automatically reinstated and the NPA must give President Zuma a date by which he is to appear in court.”