South Africa

In the Dock

Not a Zuma supporter in sight as date is finally set for Arms Deal trial

File Photo: Corruption-accused former president Jacob Zuma will finally have his 'day in court'. EPA-EFE/ROGAN WARD / POOL

The corruption and racketeering trial of former president Jacob Zuma and French arms company Thales will begin in May.

Senior prosecutor, Advocate Billy Downer, told the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday morning that it was “quite a milestone” that the parties in the fraud, corruption and racketeering matter involving former president Jacob Zuma and French arms company Thales had agreed on a date for trial, and that the matter would finally proceed.

Legal representatives for Zuma and Thales told the court they had no qualms with the dates.

Zuma was not present in court, with Downer confirming he had asked to be excused, to which the State had agreed.

The area outside the courthouse was quiet, with no roads closed off and none of Zuma’s bused-in supporters in sight – a far cry from the mobile stages, sound systems and crowds for his appearances in 2018 and 2019.

The matter was subsequently postponed and set down for trial by Judge Nkosinathi Chili to be heard over at least two terms, starting on 17 May and running until 20 June. Any further dates will be at the discretion of the presiding judge and judge president.

It took about 10 minutes in court to set the date for a matter that has been in and out of court for well over a decade. Zuma will now have his much-vaunted “day in court” to deny the allegations. He has said several times that the charges are politically motivated, and that he is being “persecuted”.

Downer indicated at the start of proceedings that the state had 217 witnesses available out of the 234 on its list.

He said that according to the pretrial minutes, the matters that were outstanding and keeping the case from getting to trial, had been dealt with.

“Those matters outstanding [included] the results of Thales’ review application to set aside the [Prevention of Organised Crime Act] racketeering certificate. As indicated in the pretrial minutes, this court handed down judgment on 22 January 2021, so that issue has been resolved… Thales has indicated it is not taking the matter further.” 

The second issue was the further and better particulars requested by Thales, which the State had provided by 16 February, said Downer. Thales had indicated that issue “was now closed”.

The third issue was Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns and travel restrictions to and from South Africa, which would have affected Thales and overseas witnesses.

On this point, Downer said there was no way of telling what would happen in the future, but that “none of us think it is a reason to hold up [the start of the trial]”. 

“[I]f we were to wait until we had certainty [about Covid-19], we would never get to trial. So that is an issue that we will deal with as it happens, and we all agree that we are all ready for trial, and it is merely a question of, if your lordship is so disposed, setting the trial date.” 

Downer said that, as previously indicated, it had already been established in 2020 from the roll planners in KwaZulu-Natal, and from the office of the director of public prosecutions in the province, that the roll was available from 17 May.

“To cut a long story short, we are all ready for trial on 17 May.”

He thanked his “learned friends” for being able to “reach this milestone”.

The case relates to Thales securing a R2.6-billion contract as part of the German Frigate Consortium to provide combat suites for the South African Navy’s four Meko class frigates as part of the 1999 Strategic Defence Procurement Package, known as the Arms Deal. 

Zuma, accused one, is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud.  

Thales, accused two, is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption and one count of money laundering.  

The State contends that Thales bribed Zuma via his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, to protect the multinational from a probe after the corporation secured the contract.

Zuma is accused of having benefited from 783 payments from Shaik, who in turn received some, if not all, of the money from Thales. 

Shaik was found guilty on two counts of corruption and one of fraud in 2005 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released on medical parole in 2009. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Just imagine all the heartache, financial loss and downright embarrassment we all could have been spared had this trial been held expeditiously, and Mr Zuma would never have become President, state capture would not have been so virulent and we, as a country would be, at a minimum R1.5 trillion better off.

    I hope the powers that be ponder on this and next time don’t freeze and dilly-dally.

    • Coen Gous says:

      You’ve hit the nail on the head Jon, and that also apply to the other comments at time of writing. But if my my limited knowledge of law is correct, there will be other avenues open to Zuma, apart from pleading sickness and the like. If found guilty, he can appeal. If his appeal is heard by the High Court and still found guilty, he can then appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal, and then of course, to the Constitutional Court. And by then, who knows, Magashule might be the president, and he will most certainly pardon Zuma. I can only hope that all comes together at the same time. The arms deal case, the findings and recommendations of the Zondo commission., and there might be others, such as a charge of treason. Whatever, he is set to spend a lot of time in court, which could be very traumatic for a guilty person, I think. If his son is then also charged for several misdeeds as well, he might actually run out of money to pay for his very expensive legal counsel. Doubt if he, at the moment, enjoys any kind of tea, regardless of whether it is with Malema, Magashule, Niehaus, old ex-MK soldiers, or after the frolicking in the bushes of Kwa-Zulu Natal with young, unmarried women.

      • Robert Mitchell says:

        Correct Coen. Imagine living a life of guilt and all you have to do is spend your days working out how you stay out of jail! However, when you dont believe youve done anything wrong and you do have billions offshore, who cares. when he dies, his family will have generational wealth for perhaps 6 generations to come or more! his legal bills to date would have dried up funds of any normal poilitican by now. he will never run out of funds. Oh and Dudu also need not worry. Im sure she is getting sorted out too!

        • Scott Gordon says:

          JZ has no guilt . he is an insult to most South Africans . Delayed until May , will he get day release ? Soon to be in orange doing 2 years .
          1.5 Trillion ? Just for JZ ? I thought the useless Munis could have racked up that bill over 20 years .
          The gutless anc did not impeach him , so guilty by association !
          I started to watch him moan about the soft ‘law enforcement ‘ my skin crawled , truly an odious human being !
          Turned off !

  • Pieter Joubert says:

    Sorry guys – Can’t talk now. I’m packing for Stalingrad for an extended holiday – Love JZ

  • Charles Parr says:

    Yippee, we’re actually making progress with a case that refers to a period before JZ became president. My goodness, it will take three generations to get to the bottom of how much destruction he actually caused. Why are we actually bothering except that we’re all on our high horse about achieving justice.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    I loved the ” … released on medical parole in 2009.” .. part …. but missing is the part about well enough to spend most of his time on the golf course … not unlike Trump in many respects ! How is it that the ‘medical’ people who authorised this mockery, have not been brought to book ?

  • Guy Young says:

    My advice to JZ is to go to home affairs and get a death certificate. I shouldn’t cost too much.

  • Johan Buys says:

    The Long Road to Prison, a biography in 79 parts spanning decades

  • Coen Gous says:

    A week ago I ask a very simple question from DM. Please get a credible legal person, like Prof. de Vos, to explain why it takes so long for serious crime allegations from prominent people to be heard in court. On Friday last week Magashule’s (with many others) trail was postponed for an in incredible 6 months, for a PRE-Trial. Which means we will possibly have to wait for a another 6 monts for the trial to even start. Why does it takes to long, in simple language, so I, a common man, can understand? But I guess the editor is too busy investigating the Jacques Pauw matter to further slam him, to even read comments from his readers, except from counting them. Thus no reply, even in person, as DM has my direct email address. I thus can only assume that they really don’t care about the comments made by subscribers. And thus, as with all other media outlets, really only care about the income statement of the organisation

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