The ANC’s decision to step more actively into the fray comes amid Monday’s sensational Supreme Court of Appeal judgment that overturned Judge Chris Nicholson’s ruling in favour of the ANC president.
While the legal fraternity weighed up the choices open to Zuma in the wake of the ruling, the ANC’s Mathews Phosa confirmed on Tuesday morning that it was ready to launch a legal bid to have a stay of prosecution granted.
And a senior ANC source told the Cape Argus on Tuesday: "The ANC feels that this case is increasingly undermining our own constitutional rights. It constantly tries to impact on who is our president, and who is our presidential candidate for the national elections.
"ANC lawyers have been instructed to actively and directly to become involved."
This means that the NPA could from now have to fend off dual appeals by both Zuma and the ANC.
Both Zuma and the ANC’s NEC have secured the services of one the country’s toughest anti-arms deal figures, corruption-busting Judge Willem Heath, to help keep Zuma out of the dock. Heath has been working quietly with Zuma for the past four years.
The ANC is also believed to be listening particularly closely to US-educated Paul Ngobeni, the deputy registrar of legal services at UCT, who insists it would be impossible for Zuma to have a fair trial.
Speaking exclusively to the Cape Argus, Heath denied that he had performed a gamekeeper-turned-poacher switch.
"I have been hired to assist the NEC in understanding all the issues pertaining to the case against Mr Zuma, to advise them on what matters they should debate with Mr Zuma," Heath explained.
He stressed he was not part of Zuma’s defence team, but served to advise both Zuma and the NEC on the arms deal’s complexities.
Heath acknowledged that he was ideally placed to offer expert advice because of his initial work on the arms deal. He was later ordered off the case and his Heath Special Investigating Unit was controversially shut down by then-president Thabo Mbeki. This was only after Heath had received voluminous representations on the arms deal from key sources, and had dealt extensively with three of the state’s key agencies – the NPA, the Auditor-General and the Public Protector.
Heath said he had studied closely the 98-page indictment against Zuma on corruption, fraud, racketeering and tax evasion charges and said particular notice should be paid to Judge Louis Harms’s mention yesterday that Zuma should not automatically be seen to be guilty after Schabir Shaik’s conviction – because their "intentions may have been different".
"If Judge Squires had had the benefit of the defence that Mr Zuma could have offered, he might well have reached different conclusions," Heath argued.