A shackled Duduzana Zuma appeared relaxed on Monday as he appeared in the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on charges of corruption, or alternatively conspiracy to commit corruption, for allegedly attempting to bribe former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas on 2015.
Zuma, whose ankles were cuffed as he appeared in court, was released on R100,000 bail and his case postponed until 24 January, 2019. Zuma, the son of former president Jacob Zuma, had to surrender his passport and is required to report to the Rosebank police station each Tuesday.
The 34-year-old was processed by SAPS at the Johannesburg Central Police Station on Monday morning before he appeared in front of Magistrate Jeremy Jansen van Vuuren. Zuma, who has been based in Dubai, returned to the country last week to attend the funeral of his brother, 25-year-old Vusi Nhlakanipho Zuma.
He was flagged when he arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Thursday evening and detained for several hours without being arrested.
Zuma’s lawyer Dawie Joubert questioned the lengthy postponement and said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had a weak case. Prosecutors said they were still investigating this case, as well as other allegations against Zuma, who partnered with Gupta family in business deals.
Jonas said he was taken in October 2015 by Zuma and controversial businessman Fana Hlongwane to meet Ajay Gupta at the family’s Saxonworld home. He was deputy finance minister at the time. Gupta allegedly told him finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was about to be sacked.
The NPA said Gupta, in the young Zuma’s presence, then offered to pay Jonas R600,000 in cash immediately and R600-million that would be deposited in a bank account of his choice if he took the finance minister post and assisted the family’s business deals with government. Jonas refused the alleged bribe.
Zuma did not comment on the case on Monday but he has previously denied the allegations.
“Mr Jonas was not offered a bribe by the Guptas. I did meet him and I was present, and there was no such thing that took place,” he said in an interview last year. In the same interview Zuma said he was not concerned that he might go to prison for corruption.
Soon after the meeting, former president Zuma sacked Nene, who was reportedly seen as a stumbling block to the Gupta family’s attempts to work with the state. The president appointed Des van Rooyen who was replaced days later by Pravin Gordhan after public outcry.
It is understood that the Hawks want to charge Ajay Gupta alongside Zuma, but he remains out of the country. In court papers, Gupta has denied meeting Jonas.
“The fact of the matter is that Mr Jonas is, with respect, blatantly dishonest when he suggests that he met with me or that I attended a meeting with him,” he said last year in an affidavit.
Writing to the Public Protector, Hlongwane has denied that Jonas was offered a bribe but according to reports, the case against Zuma was strengthened after police took a statement from the businessman.
The DA’s shadow finance minister David Maynier, who laid the charges in 2016, welcomed the case against Zuma on Monday.
“We hope that once this matter has been fully investigated, Atul Gupta and Ajay Gupta will also be charged with corruption for their alleged role in trying to bribe former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas in 2015,” he said.
“We would be in a very different place today had the alleged plot to capture National Treasury succeeded in South Africa,” Maynier added.
Legal experts have said that whether a person accepts a bribe or not is irrelevant to charges of corruption. “The fact that the corrupt activity was unsuccessful is not relevant. It is sufficient that there is merely a threatened infringement of an interest,” Dave Loxton wrote in a note for Werksmans Attorneys.
After Jonas revealed the bribe allegations, the DA and Cope laid charges against Atul Gupta, Ajay Gupta and Duduzane Zuma. Advocate James Grant told Daily Maverick, “In corruption, if you don’t succeed you still commit the act of corruption. It’s not just an attempt at corruption.”
Zuma is the most high profile person to be charged in relation to sweeping and widespread corruption allegations against the Gupta family and their associates. He was a shareholder in many Gupta-owned companies and the family funded his lavish lifestyle, helped him get residency in the United Arab Emirates, and took care his day-to-day administrative issues.
In February, Gupta associates Nazeem Howa, Ronica Ragavan, and Ashu Chawla and the Gupta brothers’ nephew Varun Gupta appeared in court alongside government officials accused of defrauding the Free State government of R150-million through the Estina dairy farm. The case was postponed to 17 August.
Zuma is also due to appear in the Randburg Magistrates Court on 12 July on two counts of culpable homicide. In February 2014, he crashed his Porsche into a taxi in Johannesburg and taxi passenger Phumzile Dube died. Another passenger, Nanki Mashaba, later died in hospital.
At an inquest, a magistrate ruled there was a prima facie case that Zuma’s negligence caused Dube’s death, but the NPA reviewed the evidence and declined to prosecute. The charges were finally brought against Zuma after AfriForum’s private prosecutions team, led by Advocate Gerrie Nel, threatened to prosecute the matter themselves. DM
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