Defend Truth


Indifferent but on track — Zuma’s playing for time strategy pays off again

Indifferent but on track — Zuma’s playing for time strategy pays off again
Former president Jacob Zuma at Pietermaritzburg high court on 17 April, 2023. Zuma and French arms company, Thales are facing charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Zuma, for the most part, looked disinterested in the dock during his umpteenth appearance but left court victorious in a sense — it was without a date for his next appearance, writes Greg Ardé.

Who could imagine what was going through the mind of former president Jacob Zuma when he appeared in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Monday 17 August and his marathon arms deal corruption case was postponed, again.

The former president’s political star might be waning but his detractors will say that the 81-year-old’s Stalingrad strategy to delay justice is on track.

Presiding Judge Nkosinathi Chili did not set a date for the continuation of the trial — nor instruct the legal teams to set aside dates for its continuation.

Advocate Billy Downer for the prosecution said, given the history of Zuma’s matter, long delays in proceedings were best avoided. 

Downer spoke with an air of almost amused resignation during a convivial court appearance.

Jacob Zuma

Former president Jacob Zuma at Pietermaritzburg high court on 17 April, 2023 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

For those who have grown weary of the Zuma Arms Deal corruption saga, here’s a quick refresher. 

Stalingrad continues predictably

Last year, Judge Piet Koen recused himself from the case because he expressed himself on the private prosecution that Zuma has bought against Downer and journalist Karyn Maughan. 

Zuma is prosecuting them for releasing his medical records, a sideshow to the main act: him being accused of corruption, racketeering, money laundering and fraud arising from his receipt of 783 payments from his on-off chum, convicted crook Schabir Shaik and French arms company Thales.

Maughan and Downer have argued that summonses served on them in September last year should be quashed.

Today Judge Chili, now with the reins, received another application to oust Downer, effectively giving Zuma’s lawyer Dali Mpofu another bite at the cherry.

The spokesperson for the Jacob Zuma Foundation was soon crowing about this on social media.

“The judge refused the request by (lead advocate) Billy Downer to set the date for criminal case….,” Jimmy Manyi tweeted.

While the significance of this may be lost on non-legal minds — it essentially means that Zuma now has no “trial date” hanging over his head. And it will mean the judge and the legal teams will have to scramble through their busy diaries in future to find suitable dates — more delays.

Judge Koen, who had presided over the matter until he recused himself in January, had kept a tight rein on proceedings, given that they have already been running for four years and, as Downer submitted in court today, with no end in sight.

“The trial should not be put on the back burner,” he pleaded.

Judge Koen had previously insisted that either a holding date — or a date for trial — be determined in advance and he had also instructed the legal teams to set aside the last term of this year and the first term of next year for the trial to continue.

Judge Chili seemed to agree with submissions by Mpofu that this would be a “disservice” to counsel involved in the matter, who would have to keep two terms free “which may or may not be used because there are so many X factors.”

So what are the X factors?

Zuma’s new application to oust Downer has to be heard.

This application is largely a rehash of his historic complaints about political interference in the trial, his continued claims that Downer is biased and, that he is now prosecuting Downer (and Maughan) in a private prosecution relating to alleged “leaks” of his personal medical information.

Zuma says he cannot be prosecuted by someone who he is prosecuting.

Downer and Maughan’s applications to stop this have been argued and judgment is awaited.

But either way, those will undoubtedly go on appeal.

Former president Jacob Zuma

Former president Jacob Zuma at Pietermaritzburg High Court on 17 April, 2023 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

The saga drags on

Zuma’s latest application has been set down to be heard on 15 and 16 August. Zuma has been excused from attending. 

Judgment will be reserved. And either way, again, someone will appeal.

Zuma, in his latest affidavit, says he is being “tortured”, just as suspects during apartheid days were, “except in my case, I did nothing wrong”.

On his version, the facts are clear: Downer must go and it’s the State’s fault that the corruption trial has been on the roll for so long, without a single shred of evidence being led, because the NPA should have “done the right thing” and removed Downer.

Last year Zuma appeared in court on his birthday. His court appearances are increasingly less scary with a dwindling number of angry supporters — a far cry from his heyday when Zuma was a “tsunami” that rolled across the land.

Today the man whose supporters unleashed an orgy of violence that claimed over 300 lives in the July riots of 2021, appeared in court a few days after celebrating his 81st birthday.

The party was a modest affair attended by a “terminally ill” Shaik who was released from prison in 2009 after serving two years of his 15 year sentence for corruption.

A video of last week’s party was posted on Twitter by Zuma’s daughter Duduzane.

It shows Shaik smiling benevolently across the table at an old and tired Zuma as a waitress bearing a cake belts out a rendition of the Bruno Mars song.

Shaik and the small huddle of family and friends looked on adoringly as the waitress sang: “When I see your face there is not a thing I would change, because you are amazing”.

A KZN faction of the South African National Civic Organisation in KwaZulu-Natal would disagree. They recently rejected his election as SANCO KZN chairperson. The ANC is reportedly not recognising any of Sanco’s warring factions. No surprise there – at the party’s leadership conference last year Zuma’s bid for national chairperson of the ANC ended with miserable flop. DM 

This article was updated at 4.50pm with details of Zuma’s birthday celebration. 


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    I know what I wish for his birthday, but I can’t mention it here,the person sick piece of

  • David A says:

    Mistake giving the Matter to Chili J, if you ask me…

  • Geoff Krige says:

    Clearly, our legal system is such that if you have millions of rands to spend, you need have no fear of ever being imprisoned. But there is one interesting aside here. To quote “Zuma, in his latest affidavit, says he is being “tortured”, just as suspects during apartheid days were, “except in my case, I did nothing wrong””. So is Zuma implicitly accepting that those who were tortured by the apartheid regime were justifiably tortured? I rather think the reality is the other way around.

  • Hein van Heerden says:

    First paragraph states 17 August. I assume the date should be Monday 17 April.

  • Jack Rollens says:

    Zuma will never spend a day in jail. South Africa is corrupt to the core. Ramaphosa is no different. He is just more quiet with his corruption

    Corruption is in all sectors of the government. National to local. Because of the ANC SA is a failed state. Civil war is coming. You can blame the 50% of the unemployed and very poor people.

  • Joe Irwin says:

    One has to ask. How can this ridiculous situation continue?

  • Rory Short says:

    JZ is only interested in the welfare of SA and it’s citizens to the degree that he can rip them off.

  • William Stucke says:

    “Today Judge Chili, now with the reigns …”

    Are you sure about that, DM?
    Rain = the wet stuff
    Reign = what a King does
    Rein = what you control a horse with.

    Methinks that some better editing is required, DM 😉

  • Johan Buys says:

    Congratulations to former prisoner Jacob Zuma, on his birthday, and his miraculous health recovery.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    It is easy to forget that the man is completely neutralized politically, wasting what is left of his life, and having all his – or some nafarious character’s – money bled dry.

    I certainly do not envy his position, jail or no.

  • Meirion Griffiths says:

    This Zuma non-trial reveals the South African legal system for what it really is: a joke run by cowardly judges who are swayed by nonsensical sophistry and drivel by perfidious lawyers. The people of this country deserve far better.

  • William Dryden says:

    When are we going to see this parasite get his just rewards, and put in jail. He professes that he wants his day in court but is trying every trick in the book to keep out of the courts. We should find out who is backing Zuma and name and shame him/her.

  • Steven Burnett says:

    Can we talk about the cake? Massive plate, huge writing in chocolate sauce with hundreds and thousands. Actual cake is on the side, the size of a wad of post it notes, with two candles one unlit. There is a big song and dance, but party of ~20 will get a crumb each.

    This seems like an apt metaphor for the Zuma reign if I ever saw one.

  • Deon Botha-Richards says:

    Who the prosecutor is is irrelevant. The NPA should simply replace Downer and the new prosecutor should set a trial date.

    Problem resolved.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options