Durban - With more legal hurdles expected in the long-dragging corruption trial of former president Jacob Zuma, Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Piet Koen was on Tuesday forced to apply the scenario-planning method while setting future dates.
On Tuesday, the case returned to court for the umpteen time, but, just like before, it was a non-starter and another postponement was granted until August this year.
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 was that Zuma started receiving bribes from Shaik in 1995, which ran until 2005.
In total, the undue benefits allegedly amounted to roughly R4.7 million. Furthermore, the State alleged that despite receiving benefits amounting to R3.6m from 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.
Judge Koen was on Tuesday forced to postpone the matter when advocate Billy Downer, SC, told him that Zuma’s special application to Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) president, Justice Mandisa Maya, was yet to be heard.
“The last message I received from the (SCA) registrar was that it (Zuma’s application) was on its way to the president (Justice Maya). The reason for the delay is unclear to me, it’s not my mandate to interrogate that, but it has been received, the papers are ready and it’s on its way to the president,” Downer said in his opening remarks.
In the application, Zuma wants Justice Maya to relook at the court judge’s decision to dismiss without any hearing his application for the recusal of the NPA’s advocate Billy Downer, SC. Zuma wanted Downer to be recused as he was accusing Downer of unethical conduct, including leaking sensitive information about the case to Central Intelligence Agency spies and selected South African journalists.
When the matter was heard early last month, Judge Koen postponed it to on Tuesday, saying Zuma’s application to Justice Maya was equivalent to an appeal. As such, they could not carry on before the application was heard.
He was once again forced to postpone it by setting down August 1 as the next appearance. The actual trial will begin on August 15. He said he was cognisant that there may be hurdles, but still hopeful that these would have been resolved.
Judge Koen also indicated that there was a possibility that if Justice Maya did not rule in favour, the next stop could be the Constitutional Court, hence he left room for that possibility.
The spokesperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation, Mzwanele Manyi, caused a stir outside court when he told journalists it was the NPA that was engaging in delaying tactics by not issuing a certificate of non-prosecution in the Downer matter so that Zuma could go ahead with prosecuting him privately.
He further raised eyebrows when he said Zuma was being prosecuted for an alleged crime of R4m while the big fishes were left off the hook.
“On the indictment sheet of president Zuma we are only talking about R4m. So this excitement by the whole nation is actually a misguided excitement that we gonna get to the bottom of, the real culprits are not in the space.
“So for president Zuma to take the stand, hopefully we gonna talk about the billions that De Lille spoke about in Parliament. Those are the billions people should worry about. President Zuma is a small fry in the scheme of things here,” Manyi said.