Former President Jacob Zuma. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
Former President Jacob Zuma. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

7 things that have changed since #JacobZuma's first court appearance in 2005

By Sihle Mavuso Time of article published May 22, 2019

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Johannesburg - Plenty has changed since former President Jacob Zuma was first charged with corruption in June 2005 and was asked to present himself before the Durban High Court. 

That was shortly after his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was convicted of bribing him and subsequently handed down a 15-year sentence. He served a portion of his sentence and was granted parole on medical grounds in 2009. 

Here is what has changed fourteen years later. 

NPA heads have changed

When Zuma was first charged, the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) at the time was Advocate Vusi Pikoli, who among other charges, instituted two charges of corruption against Zuma. 

Years later, the tally of charges have increased and now stands at 18. These charges were reinstated by former National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Advocate Shaun Abrahams. 

Abrahams has since been replaced by Advocate Shamila Batohi.

New legal team

At the onset of his trial, Zuma relied on his now former lawyer Michael Hulley. 

The relationship between the two carried on throughout the years with Hulley strengthening and solidifying the legal case. 

However, when he appeared at the Pietermaritzburg High Court this week to have his corruption charges permanently expunged, Zuma arrived with a new high-powered and expensive legal team led by Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, who is waging the legal battle with Senior Counsel Thobani Masuku.  

Battle now about permanent stay of prosecution

When his court battle started, Zuma was defending himself on corruption charges. Years later, however, the former president wants the charges to be permanently withdrawn arguing the case has been contaminated by political interference and delays. 

The last day of the hearing will be this coming Friday and thereafter the three judges hearing the matter will announce their decision.

Number of prominent supporters dwindling

As proximity to power or even anticipation that one will be in power in the near future attracts the people in political circles, so did Zuma in 2005. 

Despite being reportedly advised by Nelson Mandela that Zuma was popular on the ground and firing him would spark an internal revolt, former president, Thabo Mbeki went against this advice and fired him. 

That move began a two-year process of lobbying for Zuma to take over as ANC president and later country president. 

The support at the time included senior members of the party and its alliance partners who supported Zuma extensively and even filled the court gallery every time he made an appearance in court. 

Appearing in court before his rise to the Presidency, any Zuma court appearance would attract no less than 10 000 supporters on the ground. 

Years later, the number of supporters outside court was estimated to be around 6 000. 

But this time around in Pietermaritzburg, a large portion of those who previously supported him were nowhere to be seen. 

The only prominent supporters on Monday included uMkhonto weSizwe veterans Carl Niehaus and Des Van Rooyen, a former minister and some #RETChampion members such as Nkosentsha Shezi. 

No more night vigils

Zuma’s appearances in court used to be synonymous with night vigils by his supporters but things have changed now and they are no longer held. 

The coordinator of Zuma's supporters, Bishop Vusi Dube, told Independent Media that the reason why no night vigils were held was that Pietermaritzburg is a cold place in winter and they did not want supporters to be exposed to the cold for four days and still have to travel to and fro the city. 

Fewer Zuma message branded T-shirts

There are now fewer Zuma branded T-shirts when compared to previous court appearances in 2005 and 2007 when the night vigils used to be dominated by bodly branded ANC regalia with messages like “Hands off Zuma”, “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” and “Zuma my President”. 

On Monday only a handful of black T-shirts written “Wenzeni uZuma” were seen outside the court where his supporters had gathered. 

Political Bureau

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