National Prosecuting Authority boss Shaun Abrahams has tasked the KwaZulu-Natal director of public prosecutions (DPP) with the task of facilitating the necessary processes to charge former president Jacob Zuma in court.
That responsibility now falls on the shoulders of Moipone Noko, a controversial figure who has previously been accused of shielding one of Zuma's wives, one of his sons, his associates and his political allies from prosecution.
Noko may also be tasked with leading the prosecution team against Zuma.
Big thing to watch now is who leads the prosecuting team. It has to be Advocate Billy Downer. Or will it be KZN DPP Moipone Noko. That will tell us what we need to know about how the NPA will handle the case against Zuma.— Mandy Wiener (@MandyWiener) March 16, 2018
In a landmark decision on Friday, Abrahams announced that Zuma's representations explaining why he should not be prosecuted were unsuccessful. Zuma will now be prosecuted on 18 charges and 783 counts of fraud, corruption, racketeering and money laundering relating to his alleged involvement in the arms deal – almost 13 years to the day that the same charges were originally brought against him.
But Noko has a cloud hanging over her credibility in this matter. Her history at the NPA is tainted with scandal:
- Shortly before she was appointed by Zuma in 2013, she withdrew all charges of intimidation against one of his wives, Thobeka Madiba-Zuma. It later emerged that Noko allegedly tried to stop NPA staff from giving evidence to investigators handling the matter.
- In 2012, Noko came under fire when she withdrew charges of racketeering in the "Amigos Case", which saw the sale of a R141-million water-purification plant to the KZN health department. Senior ANC members Peggy Nkonyeni and Mike Mabuyakhulu were allegedly involved in the matter. The High Court in Pietermaritzburg ruled that her decision was irrational and set it aside.
- Noko also made headlines when she withdrew charges against Durban businessman Thoshan Panday – who has known links to the Zuma family, and had allegedly attempted to bribe former KZN Hawks head Johan Booysen, who led the investigation into Panday's involvement in the controversial R60-million 2010 Fifa World Cup accommodation scandal.
- Instead, Noko advised Abrahams to reinstate failed racketeering charges against Booysen, who in 2016 laid his own charges against her for defeating the ends of justice by allegedly lying about the reasons he was charged.
- Noko was labelled a "pathetic witness" during a case involving the former KwaZulu-Natal Judge President, Chiman Patel, who sued the NPA for malicious prosecution. Patel was charged with crimen injuria for allegedly calling a staff member "rubbish" – a claim he denied – but Noko dropped the case on the day the trial was due to begin.
NPA says 5 officials - including controversial KZN DPP Moipone Noko - have been appointed to advise #ShaunAbrahams on whether to charge #PresidentZuma.— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) November 30, 2017
Noko withdrew the corruption case against Edward Zuma's business associate Thoshan Panday. That withdrawal overturned in court.
If Zuma, or any of his allies, do not take Abrahams to court, and if the Noko's process runs smoothly, it is expected that Zuma will be summoned to court for his first appearance. Law expert James Grant explained the process.
Grant said the question of an arrest relates to securing a suspect's attendance in court.
"If there is no reason to suspect that a person will not come to court, he or she can be summoned instead of arrested. But this does not often happen in most criminal cases. If Zuma is arrested, he has to attend a bail hearing. If he is summoned, he will appear in court, where the charges will be explained to him, and he will say whether he pleads guilty or not. The whole process will start then," Grant said.
"Whether he will be arrested or summoned depends largely on whether the police [decide to] play for the media. But it is unlikely he will be arrested. If the court suspects he is a flight risk, then the procedure may also change."