19/03/2018 12:07 SAST | Updated 19/03/2018 12:09 SAST

Law Experts Reckon Jacob Zuma Is 'Grasping At Straws'

"If Zuma does not want to face the charges, he will have to go to court and try to convince the judges that he will not face a fair trial," says legal expert Pierre de Vos.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Jacob Zuma after announcing his resignation as president at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. February 14, 2018.

Legal experts believe a decision by Jacob Zuma's lawyers to take on review the verdict by the National Prosecuting Authority to prosecute him would be a sign that they are "clutching at straws".

It was reported at the weekend that Zuma's lawyer, Michael Hulley, is "considering" taking National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams' decision to prosecute Zuma on 18 charges of fraud, racketeering, corruption and money laundering on review.

This came less than 24 hours after Abrahams on Friday announced that Zuma's representations regarding why he should not face the charges were unsuccessful.

READ: Zuma Fights Back: Little-Known NGO Comes To His Aid.

Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said Hulley's statement was "odd".

"[Abrahams'] decision was a decision not to interfere in an existing court ruling. It was not a decision to reinstate charges against Zuma. There was already a standing decision by the courts. The NDPP may consider new representations, but it is under no obligation to do so," De Vos said.

READ: Zuma Will Be Prosecuted.

In October 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) upheld an earlier verdict by the High Court in Pretoria that the decision to drop charges against Zuma was invalid and set aside, effectively reinstating the charges against him. Abrahams afforded Zuma time to make new representations on why he should not face prosecution. But his representations were unsuccessful.

"The place for questions about the decision to be raised and resolved is in the courts. It's usually done through a permanent stay of prosecution. So it sounds like they (Zuma's lawyers) are clutching at straws, because if Zuma does not want to face the charges, he will have to go to court and try to convince the judges that he will not face a fair trial," De Vos said.

But an application by the South African Natives' Forum – a little-known organisation – was already lodged weeks before Abrahams announced his decision.

Law expert James Grant said a review entails a call for a record of the NPA's decision and any information that was relied on.

"This record needs to show that the NPA acted rationally in their decision to prosecute Zuma. It is a very low standard the NPA would have to pass to show rationality. Zuma's lawyers are really going up against an incredibly big hurdle if they intend to challenge the decision based on rationality," Grant said.