The National Prosecuting Authority quietly let President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, off the hook eight months after a magistrate ruled he was responsible for the death of a young woman in a car accident.
Despite the high-profile nature of the case, the NPA has never publicly announced its decision, but it has emerged in correspondence in the leaked Gupta e-mails which The Times has obtained.
Randburg Magistrate Lalitha Chetty ruled on December 11 2014 that Zuma was negligent when the Porsche he was driving collided with a taxi on the M1 highway.
Two women who were travelling in the taxi died. Phumzile Dube, 30, died at the scene, and Jeanette Mashaba died in hospital a few weeks after the crash.
Mashaba’s death was ruled a result of natural causes.
Zuma maintained that his high-powered Porsche hit a puddle of water and he lost control, veering into the taxi, which in turn smashed into the barrier.
Shortly after the accident, the NPA decided for the first time not to prosecute based on the existing, insufficient evidence and referred the case to a magistrate’s court or a formal inquest.
Chetty found ” the death of the deceased Phumzile Dube was prima facie brought about by the negligent act of suspect 2, Mr Zuma.”
“He failed to conduct himself in a reasonable manner under the circumstances and adverse weather conditions,” she said.
Chetty rejected Zuma’s defence that his car had “aquaplaned” in water as he had admitted to speeding up to overtake a car that was splashing water on the windscreen of his low-slung Porsche.
She said he should have slowed down taking into account the heavy rain falling at the time of the crash.
Leaked e-mails revealed that on August 18 2015 a notification was sent to Zuma’s lawyer, Gary Mazaham, from the NPA informing Zuma the NPA would not be prosecuting him criminally.
“I decline to prosecute. There are no prospects of a successful prosecution,” it read.
David Maree, the advocate who represented Dube’s family, told The Times last week that he was surprised at the NPA’s decision not to prosecute.
“My understanding was from a law point of view, when someone is responsible for a death or an accident, then the next procedure would be a criminal matter that would follow against the person. But like I said, it was to my surprise the NPA made a decision and said they would not prosecute the matter,” Maree said.
An NPA source close to the case last week echoed Maree, saying they were surprised by the decision not to prosecute because it was “clear that Zuma should have been prosecuted for his negligence”.
“Based on this judgment, the families of the affected parties can sue Zuma for millions as this is a winnable case in a criminal court,” the source stated.
Spokesman for the NPA Luvuyo Mfaku said the decision not to prosecute Zuma had come after an assessment of the evidence of witnesses as well as those of the experts who gave evidence at the inquest, which indicated the state would not have been able to prove a case beyond any reasonable doubt.
“The finding of the magistrate is based on a balance of probabilities.
“The standard of proof in a criminal trial, beyond reasonable doubt, cannot be met on the available evidence. That can also been inferred from the reasoning of the magistrate who refers to the evidence of Mr Zuma as the basis for the finding,” he said.
Mfaku also confirmed the original accident sketch and statement given by Zuma to Sandton police that disappeared before the inquest has not been traced to this day.
Mazaham said neither he nor Zuma would respond to questions since they related to the leaked emails.