Five-year battle for spy tapes ends

Pretoria - After a five-year battle, the so-called Zuma "spy tapes" were handed over to the Democratic Alliance on Thursday.

"It's a very, very important package I hold in my hands," DA leader Helen Zille told reporters outside the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

"It's the culmination of six court cases in five years."

She walked out of the court just before 15:00 holding a plastic bag above her head with the words "tamper evident security bag" printed on it.

"In this envelope, which is in a tamper-proof bag, we have what we believe are transcripts of the tapes and other incidental documents as well as a memory stick which we believe accurately reflects the contents of the tapes," Zille said.

"We have a forensic computing expert, Danny Myburgh... who will take this bag from me. I have this bag only in his presence after the deputy judge president gave it to our attorney."

She said the DA would use the information as evidence in its review application of the withdrawal of over 700 counts of corruption against President Jacob Zuma in 2009.

Forensic experts and attorneys would analyse the material and the DA's lawyers would advise if there was a strong case for a review application, said Zille.

"We fully expect to go ahead with the review application."

NPA gives the material to the court

The National Prosecuting Authority handed the material to the court earlier on Thursday, before it was given to the DA.

A group of DA supporters waited outside the court for Zille to emerge with the recordings. They sang and chanted "give us the tapes".

This followed the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling last week that within five days the NPA had to comply with a previous order, in an application brought by the DA, to release the tapes. Zuma had opposed the move.

The recordings, internal memoranda, reports and minutes of meetings dealing with the contents of the recordings had to be provided.

The tapes, containing recorded phone conversations, allegedly reveal collusion between the former heads of the Directorate of Special Operations, the now defunct Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy, and the NPA's former head Bulelani Ngcuka, to manipulate the prosecutorial process before the ANC's Polokwane conference in 2007. Zuma was elected ANC president at the conference.

At the time, acting NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe said they showed there was a political conspiracy against Zuma and so the case against him could not continue. The charges were dropped shortly before Zuma was sworn in as president in 2009.

'Tapes not to be made public'

Asked if she would make the recordings public, Zille referred to a Western Cape High Court judgment in the N1/N2 Winelands Toll Highway project matter.

Judge Ashley Binns-Ward made orders that would effectively keep certain information from the public until the court started to review the SA National Roads Agency Limited's decision to toll the roads.

"The judge also said that they could not be made public until they were part of the court case against e-tolling in the Western Cape," Zille said on Thursday.

"That judgment apparently applies to this as well."

She said if any journalist wanted the transcripts and to hear the tapes, in terms of the Western Cape High Court ruling they would have to apply to the SCA.

Zuma welcomed the release of the documentation.

"The president is happy with the process thus far," his spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

Zille had a message for Zuma following the hand over.

"President Zuma was very deeply in the struggle for democracy and this is what he struggled for, accountability.

"No matter how long it takes or how much it costs, we will fight to make sure our state institutions remain independent," she said.