Jacob Zuma gets his day in court as judge orders physical hearing

By Dianne Hawker 4 August 2021

Jacob Zuma's case will be heard in open court, after Judge Piet Koen appears to have been persuaded by the former president's team. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

The former president will have his in-person hearing next week and get to see advocate Billy Downer face-to-face when his lawyers argue for the prosecutor’s removal from the case.

Dianne Hawker

On Wednesday morning the Pietermaritzburg High Court issued a directive that the hearing will be heard in open court – something Zuma’s legal team has spent the last month motivating for. 

In their latest submissions to the court, filed on Monday, Zuma’s lawyers said the court’s proposal to have the hearing of Zuma’s special plea application in his Arms Deal corruption trial heard virtually was a violation of the former president’s right to a fair trial. 

“To do so would be unconstitutional and illegal, irrespective of the situation in a particular case, a particular date or the particular circumstance which may or may not prevail on 9 August 2021,” his lawyer said in a short two-page submission to the court.

The National Prosecuting Authority was adamant that the hearing could go ahead virtually because no evidence was expected to be led. 

“A virtual hearing of oral argument of the special plea on 10 August is possible and will be satisfactory in every respect. The parties and their legal representatives and the public (through the broadcasting of the live feed) will be able to observe the proceedings,” the NPA argued.

However, Judge Piet Koen appears to have been persuaded by the Zuma team, revoking his earlier directive of 15 July that the case should be heard virtually. 

In a court order dated 4 August, Koen said the hearing will be conducted “in open court at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg”.

“The currently applicable Disaster Management (Covid) regulations, particularly those regarding the wearing of face masks, maintaining social distance and the restrictions on the numbers of attendees at indoor venues, must at all times be adhered to strictly,” he said.

Indications are that security services will be preparing for crowds to attend the Zuma hearing, as the NPA indicated in its court papers. 

“As to an in-person hearing, the security services have advised the NPA that if an in-person hearing were to take place on 10 August they will take all reasonable steps to ensure that it happens peacefully. They have not given any assurance they will succeed,” the NPA wrote.

“Supporters of the first accused are presently being mobilised on social media to gather in their numbers in Pietermaritzburg on 10 August.”

The NPA also raises concerns about rising Covid-19 numbers in KwaZulu-Natal: “There is no good reason not to opt for a virtual hearing of the oral arguments on 10 August and to assume the risks attendant on an in-person hearing.”

The court has set aside three days to hear Zuma’s special plea in which he wants Downer to be removed as prosecutor, alleging bias. 

Zuma’s team argues that the prosecutor should be removed from the case due to political influence in the prosecution dating back to the origins of the case more than a decade ago. DM

Dianne Hawker is a news editor at Newzroom Afrika and has been a legal journalist for more than 15 years.


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 14

  • I certainly hope, that should I ever have the misfortune to have to face criminal charges, I will be allowed to instruct my lawyer to play all these delay games and receive the special treatment this man has!

    • Me thinks not; unless your lawyer is Dali, and you can get him to SHUT-UP long enough to convince him to represent you.

      I must caution you though that your surname may count against you; and your chances, of being on the receiving end of the rather dubious privileged of having him in your corner, are rather slim.

      But relax, I have full confidence that Dali’s recent loosing streak in the Courts, as a result of his inarticulate arguments and poor abilities, will continue and count in Downer’s favour; and that JZ will end up on the receiving end of the type of rigorous prosecution process that he (JZ) so richly deserves regardless of who the prosecutor is.

      It’s not only JZ who has been longing for his day in Court 🙂😷

  • GREAT!! His day has come. Thank you judge Koen for ‘calling their bluff’. Should there be violence, let it be attributed to the imbecile and his legal team. It is time this case came to a head. The special treatment jz has enjoyed must be stopped, now!

    • Well done to the Judge, he thought the judge will refuse his application to be physically present in court so that he can appeal up until at the Apex court. So the judge was smart not to play into his hands… The score line is : Koen J (1) : Zuma (0)

      • Don’t be too sure about that! Zuma is a slippery as an eel, I doubt we will see him in court on the day! His conscience has long been erased – the moment he allowed Shabir Shaik to take the fall for the arms deal and then rewarded the Shaik family with the R1.2B driving license contract! Years of practice have honed the Zuma family into perfect criminals…in my opinion!

  • I hope this time round the security forces are a proper match for the crowd to be expected, capable of keeping them in check and immediately arrest those who are unruly or use any sort of violence.

  • Well done to the Judge, he thought the judge will refuse his application to be physically present in court so that he can appeal up until at the Apex court. So the judge was smart not to play into his hands… The score line is : Koen J (1) : Zuma (0)

  • Was this a stalling tactic of an opportunity to drive in his convoy from prison to court and see the outside world. My grace is that it must be hard to see the outside world and then go back to prison – again.

  • Umm. Sorry…..where are the Guptas? Enjoying the Zuma show which is delaying exposure of their part in our economic and political demise!

  • I am confused. I perceive a criminal trial to be adversarial with the defence advocate biased in favour of the accused and arguing for his acquittal, and the prosecution arguing for his prosecution. The judge should be neutral or unbiased. Zuma obviously wants all three biased in his favour, like Judge Seriti.

  • No doubt, when he sees the response to his call to the uneducated masses to attend the court, he will refuse to enter because of COVID-19 ‘laws’.


    Vumacam’s ‘hundreds of thousands of cameras’ will be watching you

    By Heidi Swart