Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma is studying Friday’s high court ruling denying him leave to appeal the review of the decision to drop corruption charges against him in 2009, his office said.
Spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga said Zuma would decide once he had mulled the judgment whether or not to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal in a bid to overturn the North Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) ruling.
Friday’s court decision comes as a blow for Zuma just six weeks shy of hotly contested municipal polls, though it was widely predicted that his application, joined with that of the National Prosecuting Authority, would not succeed.
Leave to appeal was denied by a full bench of the same court that held in April that Zuma should face 783 corruption charges that were withdrawn in 2009, smoothing his path to the presidency.
“The application for leave to appeal by the applicants is dismissed. The applicants are jointly and severally ordered to pay the costs of the respondent, including cost of two counsels,” said Judge Aubrey Ledwaba, accompanied by Judges Cynthia Pretorius and Selewe Mothle.
Ledwaba said the court’s earlier judgment that set aside the decision to drop the charges of racketeering and corruption against Zuma was clear on how and why it arrived at that decision. The bench had again meticulously looked into the application for leave to appeal, he said.
“When the court deals with an application for leave to appeal, leave may only be given if we are of the opinion that the appeal would have reasonable prospects of success or if there are some other compelling reasons. In our view there are no novel legal issues raised in the matter.”
Ledwaba said the applicants, in their arguments, “invented novel legal grounds”.
“The applicants misinterpreted sections of the judgment or some selective sentences of the judgment. The fact that the public has an interest in the matter is not a justification to grant leave to appeal. The matter is of course important to Mr Zuma, however, if the appeal does not have reasonable prospects of success leave to appeal should not be granted.
“We seriously considered whether the appeal will have reasonable prospects of success and came to the conclusion that there are no merits in the arguments raised by the applicant,” said Ledwaba.
Regarding the argument raised by the NPA and Zuma, that the court erred in its judgment and had breached separation of powers, Ledwaba said the argument “was unfounded”.
“The court did not interfere with the separation of powers principle in that it did not order or direct the NDPP (National Director of Public Prosecutions) to continue with prosecution. The attack by the applicants based on the above is unfounded,” said Ledwaba.
The criminal charges against Zuma were withdrawn by then prosecutions head Mokotedi Mpshe on the grounds that wiretapped conversations of senior officials in the Thabo Mbeki administration suggested possible political meddling surrounding the indictment of Zuma.
The high court’s April ruling held that Mpshe’s decision was irrational, and that he was under political pressure to withdraw the charges, which stemmed from the multi-billion rand arms deal signed a decade earlier.
The case was brought to court by the Democratic Alliance shortly after Zuma was elected, and the party on Friday said any further application by the president for leave to appeal would be a waste of public finances.