Ruling on spy tapes grants people access to info - critic

Johannesburg - The release of the so-called Zuma "spy tapes" has ultimately granted the public access to the information contained in them, arms deal critic Hennie Van Vuuren said on Thursday.

"The spy tapes are not a story unto themselves but they form part and parcel of a cover-up into the arms deal," he told reporters in Pretoria.

"We welcome the decision... to grant the people ultimately access to the information that is contained in the so-called spy tapes."

Van Vuuren and fellow critics, former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein and author Paul Holden, announced on Thursday that they were withdrawing from all participation into the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the 1999 multi-billion rand arms deal.

The three said they could no longer co-operate with an institution that "is [so] deeply compromised that its primary outcome will be to cover-up the facts".

Earlier on Thursday, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that within five days, the National Prosecuting Authority had to comply with a previous order, in an application brought by the DA, to release the tapes.

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

Conversations on the recordings were cited as a reason to drop fraud and corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma, shortly before he was sworn in as president in 2009.

The tapes 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.

Political conspiracy

At the time, acting NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe said they showed there was a political conspiracy against Zuma and so the case could not continue.

The DA applied for access to the recordings and despite winning previous court cases could not obtain them.

Zuma's legal team had argued in the latest application that the DA would use them against him for political gain.

Van Vuuren said there were two important points about the "spy tapes".

Firstly, the critics' struggle for openness was not just against Zuma.

"He is clearly the most powerful elected individual in our country but we have always argued that there are many people connected in the arms deal.

"Clearly the release of these documents will give us an important opportunity to get a real insider view of what informed the decision to eventually drop those charges [against Zuma]."

Secondly, he said their fight was not a partisan one, and should not become one between the ANC and the DA.

"Ultimately this is information that all South Africans... should have access to and should not be reduced into an argument between green and blue," Van Vuuren said.