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Zuma to appeal high court ruling over appointment of NPA head

The Presidency says Zuma has been advised of various grounds on which an appeal against the ruling.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma will appeal Friday’s court ruling invalidating his appointment of Shaun Abrahams to decide whether to reinstate corruption charges against him.

The Presidency says Zuma has been advised of various grounds on which an appeal against the ruling, which also said Zuma should not be the one to appoint a new state prosecutor, could be successful.

The High Court has stopped short of describing Zuma's conduct in reaching the golden handshake settlement with former prosecutions boss Mxolisi Nxasana as unlawful, saying the pair behaved recklessly.

The full bench in Pretoria set aside the termination of Nxasana's contract and ordered that he pay back the R17 million settlement.

The High Court found that as the head of a democratic state, President Zuma must have known what the law prescribed in relation to the termination and settlement of the national director of public prosecutions’ (NDPP) contract.

It was agreed that Nxasana was not entitled to the golden handshake but the court questioned whether Zuma knew what he was doing was unlawful.

The court referred to Zuma’s pattern of litigation, of defending the indefensible in order to take advantage of whatever benefits the passage of time may bring, only to concede at the end.

The full bench says there is an inference that both Zuma and Nxasana acted unlawfully but the court has tread cautiously and has found that the pair were reckless.

It was on these grounds that it did not reinstate Nxasana as head of the National Prosecuting Authority.

Meanwhile, the African National Congress says it has noted the ruling that Zuma may have no say in the appointment of a new NDPP because he faces the prospect of criminal prosecution and is conflicted.

Freedom Under Law and Corruption Watch had brought the application challenging Nxasana's R17-million golden handshake which he's now been ordered to pay back.

Judge Dunstan Mlambo referred to the long-standing spy tapes matter and the prospect of President Zuma being charged with fraud and corruption.

“It seems incongruous that under those circumstances President Zuma should then be seen to be appointing the NDPP since his conflict both actually and perceived is self-evident. Judges decline routinely to sit in matters in which they are conflicted.”

The court has ordered that the deputy president should make decisions related to the appointment of the national director and has set a grace period.

“The orders of invalidity of paragraph two and four above are suspended for a period of 60 days or until such a time as the deputy president has appointed a national director of public prosecutions in term of paragraph eight above. Whichever is the shorter period.”

"VINDICATED"

Corruption Watch says it has been vindicated by the ruling removing Abrahams as the NDPP.

The watchdog's David Lewis said: “We feel very vindicated by this, we have long expressed the concern that the state of the National Prosecuting Authority and indeed of the Hawks represent the greatest impediment to combating corruption in this country.”

At the same time, Freedom Under Law says the judgment signals the critical importance of the independence of the NPA.

Freedom Under Law's Johann Kriegler said: "It signifies to us as I think it signifies to all who are interested in the administration of justice that you want at the head of the department only people of the utmost integrity.”