STALINGRAD DEFENCE UPDATE
Jacob Zuma warns that bid to seek further delays in Arms Deal corruption trial a ‘definite option’
All but out of options, Jacob Zuma’s long-delayed corruption trial is due to start on 11 April. However, the Jacob Zuma Foundation released a statement at the weekend warning of its attempts to further delay.
Asking the Pietermaritzburg High Court for a postponement on day one of former president Jacob Zuma’s criminal trial – set for 11 April – was a “definite option”, the spokesperson for Zuma’s eponymous foundation told Daily Maverick on Sunday.
Mzwanele Manyi said he did not want to “pre-empt” anything, but in light of last week’s Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling, seeking a postponement was a very real possibility.
On Saturday, the Jacob Zuma Foundation issued a statement via social media saying it was “astounded” by the SCA decision to dismiss the former president’s application for his special plea – dismissed by the Pietermaritzburg High Court in October 2021, with leave to appeal being dismissed by the same court in February – to be heard.
In the same statement, the foundation said that Zuma had briefed his legal team “to do all that is necessary to approach the President of the SCA in line with the relevant legislation to seek appropriate remedies, including the reconsideration, variation or clarification [of the SCA’s] decision”.
To: All Media and the People of South Africa and the world. pic.twitter.com/1y4q3GX0c2
— JGZuma Foundation (Official) (@JGZ_Foundation) April 2, 2022
Justice was “most definitely not served” by the SCA’s dismissal, said the foundation, adding that they were “astounded by the glaring vagueness and the ambiguity inherent in this decision”.
“A blanket approach and routine order of dismissal does not provide the required clarity,” said the foundation.
“Court judgments are there to provide legal certainty and clarity so that subjective inferences are avoided. All litigants are entitled to know the exact and real reasons why their cases are successful or not. This is not the case here.”
As previously reported by Daily Maverick, the SCA stated in a letter dated 30 March that after consideration of Zuma’s notice of motion and other documents filed therewith, there was no reasonable prospect of a successful appeal and “no other compelling reason why an appeal should be heard”.
Should he have been successful in that appeal, the former president intended to tell the SCA what he has unsuccessfully argued before other courts in his efforts to halt the nearing criminal trial of himself and French arms company Thales.
This centred on the lead prosecutor in the case, advocate Billy Downer, having no title to prosecute in this matter because he lacked “independence and impartiality”, and that Zuma being prosecuted was the result of a wide-ranging and protracted political conspiracy involving national and international players, including the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) itself. It would thus be impossible for him to have a fair trial, as is his constitutional right, the former president has unsuccessfully previously argued.
The foundation further said in its statement that Zuma’s legal team would be at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on 11 April “with a clear mandate to ensure the protection of these sacrosanct rights and values enshrined in our constitution”.
In the interim, Zuma’s legal team had notified the NPA of the latest developments in the matter and Judge Koen had been copied into correspondence, given the “pressing timetable”, said the foundation.
Zuma was first indicted on 20 June 2005 and has since then publicly maintained that he wants his “day in court” to prove his innocence. But, with taxpayer money at this disposal until recently, he funded multiple cases to keep himself from the dock.
Along with his all-encompassing conspiracy “defence”, Zuma’s age and “medical condition” have also more recently been used as arguments by his legal team to keep him from trial.
In January, one of Zuma’s senior counsel members, advocate Dali Mpofu, said that the 79-year-old should be afforded leave to appeal to the SCA to spare him the “cost and strain” of a trial. The SCA would likely find in Zuma’s favour, Mpofu said at the time. As for attempts to keep the former president from trial because of his “medical condition”, state-appointed medical specialists have found him fit to take the stand.
Zuma will celebrate his 80th birthday on 12 April – day two of the criminal trial.
The foundation continued in its statement: “All that HE President Zuma wants is a fair trial, and [he] will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the constitutional promise of the rule of law and equality before the law are evenly applied to all.”
The foundation said it would be a “travesty of justice and a vindictive assault on the constitution” for the trial to proceed while “legal protections” were being sought.
Zuma is accused of receiving 791 payments, totalling R4.1-million, between 1995 and 2004 from his former financial adviser/economic adviser Schabir Shaik and Shaik’s companies, to help Thales, accused number two, to secure lucrative defence contracts from the government as part of South Africa’s armaments deal.
Downer was part of the original team that successfully secured Shaik’s conviction in 2005. Shaik was released on medical parole in March 2009.
Zuma is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud. Thales is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption and one count of money laundering.
Both accused have pleaded not guilty to all charges. DM