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Jacob Zuma’s graft trial is likely to stall again

Former President Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial is likely to stall again at the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Picture Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA

Former President Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial is likely to stall again at the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Picture Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA

Published May 17, 2022


Durban - The protracted corruption trial of former president Jacob Zuma is set to start and stall again at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday.

This will be the umpteenth time that the trial is delayed since the charges were reinstated in February 2018, shortly after Zuma was recalled as president of the country.

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The former head of state is facing a raft of corruption, money laundering and racketeering charges emanating from the arms deal of the late ’90s.

The State alleges that Zuma pocketed bribes from Schabir Shaik, his former financial adviser, to shield Thales (co-accused in the case), a French arms company that won some tenders.

In May last year, Zuma pleaded not guilty to the 18 charges that had been laid against him by the State. Among the revelations in the charge sheet is that Zuma started receiving bribes from Shaik in 1995, and that ran until 2005.

In total, the undue benefits allegedly amounted to roughly R4.7 million. This allegedly showed that despite Zuma knowing from as early as 2001 that he was being investigated by the Scorpions for receiving bribes from Shaik, he continued with the alleged illegal acts.

Charging him with fraud in one of the counts, the State alleged that despite receiving benefits amounting to R3.6 million from Schabir Shaik, Zuma misled Parliament by declaring that he did not receive any financial sponsorship between 1999 and 2005. That was when he was deputy president to Thabo Mbeki.

However, the trial had been hitting snags, with the latest one being Zuma’s application to the outgoing President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Mandisa Maya, to relook at the court’s decision to dismiss without any hearing his application for the recusal of the NPA’s advocate Billy Downer SC.

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Zuma wanted Downer to be recused as he was accusing him of unethical conduct like leaking sensitive information about the case to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spies and selected South African journalists.

When the matter was heard early last month, Judge Piet Koen postponed it to on Tuesday, saying Zuma’s application to Judge Maya was equivalent to an appeal. As such, they could not carry on before the application was heard.

On Monday, the spokesperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation, Mzwanele Manyi, said the matter was not likely to go ahead on Tuesday because the SCA was yet to deal with the application.

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“High-level update. 1. As we speak, the SCA has not yet responded to the reconsideration/review application. This means we are back to the 11 April 2022 position. 2. Judge Koen had said if the above condition prevails on the 17th May 22, H E President Zuma does not have to be in Court,” he said in a statement to the media.

Manyi added that Zuma was therefore not expected to be personally in court.

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