STATEMENT BY SUNDAY TIMES EDITOR, RAY HARTLEY
The decision by acting Judge Nomsa Khumalo of the Pretoria High Court that the Sunday Times can publish the article “How Zuma got off the hook” represents a victory for free speech.
The judge ruled that the NPA had failed to argue that there were grounds for an urgent interdict against the newspaper and awarded costs to the Sunday Times.
The story by a award-winning investigations unit (Stephan Hofstatter, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Rob Rose) is based on over 300 pages of leaked documentation, which show that top prosecutors were convinced they had a winning case against Jacob Zuma. Despite this, the then Acting head of public prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe overuled them and dropped the charges in 2009.
The story includes details of secret representations made by Zuma’s lawyers to the NPA and a series of internal memorandums in which top prosecutors argue strongly against dropping the charges despite claims that the prosecution was tainted by political interference. Their argument was essentially that political interference should not trump the merits of the case which they believed to be strong enough for a successful prosecution.
Sadly, the NPA has said it intends bringing a fresh court action against the Sunday Times this week on the grounds that the documents were illegally obtained. This too will fail because the documents were leaked to the Sunday Times and are demonstrably in the public interest.
Instead of trying to keep vital information away from the public, the NPA would do well to heed the constitution’s call for an “open” society and its protection of freedom of expression. Its dogged attempts to protect certain political leaders from public scrutiny are raising serious doubts about its ability to serve the public with the independence and integrity required of a prosecuting authority.
What is chilling is that if the Protection of Information Bill is passed in its current form, this sort of reporting will become illegal.
Will the NPA be prosecuted for their lies to the Court in this case (only heard about the matter today but were exchanging emails about it since Thursday at least)?
Will Zuma get prosecuted now? It is sorely needed if we are ever to get ahead of the corruption epidemic in this country.
It seems to all outward appearances that Zuma expects to continue to gather wealth by looting and then die, after which, as in the case of Sicelo Shiceka, the claims will evaporate and his heirs will live well, at least until the money is wasted.
A victory for free speech but hardly one of any relevance if the case is based on fruit from the poisonous tree.
If only the general public (the one that votes!) paid any attention to the facts, then at least an expose of this sort would actually matter and have some appropriate consequences.