Zuma back in court to stay prosecution against him

Staff Writer | May 21, 2019
Former president Jacob Zuma’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution against him has resumed.

The former president told a crowd outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court yesterday as the first day of the hearing on his application drew to a close that his lawyer had argued ‘that what has happened to me is like the way people were charged in the apartheid era’.

He reportedly went on: ‘He has argued there are two ways to interpret the law. One is a legal philosophy of the apartheid times. That law tarnished people’s rights. The second interpretation is of post-94 where you are guided by the law and you don’t trample peoples rights.’

Inside the courtroom, Zuma’s defence counsel Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane said the blame for delays in prosecuting Zuma lay with the state, that the criminal charges against him were politically motivated and that he should have been charged with Shabir Shaik, his financial advisor, in 2005. 

Sikhakhane submitted that Zuma was prejudiced and implicated by evidence led in the Shaik trial, because Zuma was not a co-accused. As he was not a co-accused, he could not cross-examine witnesses.

‘The evidence that we know as incontrovertible today, may not have been so.’

Judge Esther Steyn, one of the three full-bench judges, pointed out that Shaik was exercising his constitutional right to testify in his own defence. But according to Sikhakhane, ‘Mr Zuma's absence in the Shaik trial amounted to him being tried in his absence’.

Zuma and French arms company Thales are facing charges of fraud, money laundering, corruption and racketeering for a series of alleged bribes paid by Thales to Zuma through Shaik during the multibillion-rand arms deal in the late 1990s. Shaik was found guilty of fraud and corruption in June 2005, and sentenced to an effective 15 years in jail. He was granted medical parole after 2 years and 4 months in 2009, the first year of Zuma’s presidency.

Sikhakhane also submitted that a delay between June 2005 and July 2006 in the case could not be blamed on Zuma; the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had charged him without being ready. 

Judge Tholo Poyo-Dlwati pointed out that the NPA was not ready because of cases brought by Zuma's legal team challenging the legality of warrants used to raid his properties. Sikhakhane accused the NPA of ‘mob justice’ in its dealings with Zuma. ‘It's bias,’ he said. 

Advocate Wim Trengove SC is leading a team including advocates Andrew Breitenbach SC and Gilbert Marcus SC in representing the state.

 

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