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Everyone's equal before the law, even Zuma – NPA

South Africa


Everyone’s equal before the law, even Zuma – NPA

Former President Jacob Zuma in the Pietemaritzburg High Court facing corruption charges, 23 May 2019. Photo: Pool/Doctor Ngcobo/AfricanNewsAgency

It was the NPA's turn on Thursday to explain why former president Jacob Zuma and French arms company Thales should be prosecuted for corruption. Zuma was responsible for a decade of delays in the case and the public needs to see the powerful held accountable, heard the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

The NPA called on Thursday for the Pietermaritzburg High Court to dismiss former president Jacob Zuma’s permanent stay of prosecution application, arguing that the seriousness of the crimes against him meant the case should go to trial.

There is a high risk if Mr Zuma escapes prosecution that he will be seen to have received special treatment because he is an important and a powerful man. He’s accused of corruption, racketeering, money laundering and fraud in high public office,” said Advocate Wim Trengrove SC representing the NPA.

He managed to avoid prosecution while in the highest public office. He managed to do so by using to the hilt the constitutional legal system available to him at public expense of between R16-million and R32-million,” he continued.

Zuma and French arms company Thales have applied to have arms deal-related charges dropped, arguing they would not get a fair trial due to the lengthy delay in the case and allegations of political interference.

The state alleges that Zuma accepted a bribe of R500,000 per year from Thales to protect the company from investigations into the contract it won during the arms deal and to promote its business interests in South Africa.

It is very important therefore that when a very powerful public official is accused of very serious crimes that he be seen to be treated as everybody is and that he does not receive special treatment because of the importance and the power of the office that he holds,” argued Trengrove.

Trengrove dismissed Zuma’s claim that the NPA was to blame for the lengthy delays in prosecuting Zuma since his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik was charged in relation to the same alleged crimes in 2003.

The NPA under former national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Vusi Pikoli charged Zuma in 2006 but the case failed as Zuma was challenging the admissibility of evidence gathered in raids. In the 14 years since, Trengrove said Zuma, at times acting with the NPA, had consistently employed a Stalingrad strategy to challenge and appeal everything he could in court.

The question today is, is it open for Mr Zuma today to blame the NPA for the delay in his prosecution? And we submit, with respect, that the primary cause of the delay was the protracted litigation by Mr Zuma over a period of almost 14 years,” said Trengrove.

He said Zuma’s “luxurious litigation” at the expense of the taxpayer had essentially failed over the years, except to hold up the case against the former president. “It doesn’t lie in his mouth to complain about the delay if the cause of the delay was the litigation to which he was a party,” said Trengrove.

Zuma’s lawyers argued on Monday that the case against him was tainted by political motivations and that the NPA made unlawful decisions.

They referred to the so-called spy tapes, where former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy discussed the timing of charging Zuma ahead of the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference where Zuma competed for the party presidency against former president Thabo Mbeki.

Trengrove said the tapes proved that McCarthy used foul language and did discuss the timing of charging Zuma.

But that’s the high-water mark of it. It doesn’t go to the integrity of the decision itself, the decision to prosecute and it is not only we who say so the (Supreme Court of Appeal) has already held that to be so and Mr Mpshe was the only one who decided otherwise,” said Trengrove.

Former NDPP Mokotedi Mpshe declined to prosecute Zuma in 2009 based on the spy tapes, a decision which was found to be unlawful.

There is not a shred of evidence to support the suggestion that the decision to prose Mr Zuma was in any way politically motivated,” said Trengrove.

Thales has argued it was prejudiced by the delay in prosecution and would no longer get a fair trial, but Trengrove accused the company of “deceitful trickery”.

He read correspondence between the NPA and Thales, formerly called Thomson-CSF, showing the company’s Alain Thétard, at the centre of the bribery accusations against Zuma, admitted to having confirmed the dodgy deal in an affidavit after the company agreed to co-operate in Shaik’s prosecution.

The NPA had charged Thales along with Shaik but dropped the charges after Thétard’s admission. He then wrote an unsolicited affidavit denying his previous claims.

We will submit that the dishonest way in which they escaped prosecution at that time is important because it then rings hollow for them today to complain that they have not previously been charged and they are prejudiced by the delay,” said Trengrove.

The hearing continues and is expected to be finalised on Friday. DM


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