14/09/2017 05:11 BST | Updated 14/09/2017 05:39 BST

Zuma Charges: Mokotedi Mpshe's Agonising Choice

He was all that stood between Zuma and the Union Buildings.
Mokotedi Mpshe was visibly upset when he announced the dropping of charges against President Zuma.

The National Prosecuting Authority's former acting head, Mokotedi "Cocky" Mpshe, announced in April 2009 that he was dropping charges against the newly minted ANC President Jacob Zuma. In so doing, he wrote his own legacy.

Since then, his decision has been the subject of one of South Africa's longest-running legal battles as the DA has pursued Zuma and the National Prosecuting Authority to make them reinstate those charges.

On that day in 2009, Mpshe was visibly distressed. As the Zunami (union boss Zwelinzima Vavi's nickname for Zuma's campaign to become president) rolled into town, Mpshe was all that stood between the ANC president and the Union Buildings.

Mpshe had been let down by the boss of the Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy. Under the old system of investigation-led prosecutions, McCarthy was supposed to report to him.

But McCarthy was hopelessly partisan towards former president Thabo Mbeki and crafted the investigations into Zuma's alleged corruption in consultation with the former national director of public prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, leaving Mpshe out of the loop.

Under pressure, Mpshe dropped the charges as he believed the prosecution of Zuma to be fatally tainted by McCarthy's failure to uphold his oath to act independently and without fear or favour.

The North Gauteng High Court has ruled that Mpshe was wrong. Zuma believes he was right. Now the Supreme Court of Appeal will decide whether Zuma can take the case further.

Mpshe, meanwhile, is long gone from the NPA. He is an advocate in Pretoria and previously acted as a judge of the Land Claims Court. He was also a chief evidence leader at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and before that worked as a prosecutor and a magistrate in the former homeland of Bophuthatswana.