Delaying Zuma arms deal case will lead to more political conspiracy claims, says expert
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Durban - The latest postponement of the Jacob Zuma and Thales corruption case will bolster, even without evidence, claims by supporters of the former president that the case is politically motivated, a political analyst has warned
On Tuesday, the Pietermaritzburg High Court certified a mutual consent order to postpone the case, without Zuma being present in court, untilFebruary next year.
Zuma stands accused of pocketing bribes during the 1998-99 procurement of arms. He denies the charges against him, saying they are politically motivated. The alleged bribes, including a R500 000 annual retainer, were allegedly paid by his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, and they came from Thales, a French arms company that won the contracts to supply arms during the procurement.
During a court sitting that lasted about seven minutes, Judge Nompumelelo Radebe ruled that the matter should be postponed as all parties were awaiting a ruling on whether the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should drop racketeering charges against Thales.
Advocate Billy Downer SC (senior counsel), the lead prosecutor in the case, told the court all parties proposed the February date.
The judge then asked Zuma’s legal representative for the day, advocate Simiso Mtungwa, to confirm Downer’s assertion and once he did, the judge certified the agreement.
“The consent order is as follows: Having read the papers filed on record and considered the submissions of counsel for the State and the accused, which submissions were on paper, the court orders as follows: 1. The matter is postponed provisionally to February 23, for the resolution of the following outstanding pre-trial management issues with a view to the court at the provisionally hearing on February 23, 2021, certifying the matter as trial-ready in accordance with the judge president’s pre-trial hearing directives dated November 7, 8.
1.1 The full judgment on Thales application for review heard on October 26, 2020.
“1.2 Further clarity on the resumption of international travel under Covid-19 restrictions which affects witnesses and the Thales representative, Mr Durant from abroad.
1.3 “The state’s answer to Thales application for further and better particulars dated November 23.
“This order is dated on December 8, 2020, at the Pietermaritzburg High Court,” the judge ruled.
Zuma and his legal team of advocate Eric Mabuza, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC and advocate Thabani Masuku were not present in court. Also not present was a Thales representative from France. That was due to a prior arrangement between the three parties which was communicated to the court and accepted by the presiding judge.
Speaking to Independent Media shortly after the postponement, Nkosentsha Shezi, the leader of radical economic transformation (RET Champions) in KZN, said: “This is a clear case of justice delayed and justice denied, and it’s really unfair and not befitting the stature of president Zuma who dedicated his life to liberating this country.”
Also joining the fray was the Jacob Zuma Foundation which said it was dismayed that the State was not ready even after the former president had stated numerous times that he was “ready to face this politically motivated arms deal case”.
There is no escaping the conclusion that the repeated delays perpetuated by the NPA are tantamount to justice delayed is justice denied,” the foundation said, adding the Zulu phrase Kazi iyozala inkomoni (One wonders how this will end).
Political analyst Protas Madlala said it was expected that Zuma and his supporters would milk any delay in getting the high-stakes trial off the ground even though the delay was not caused by the State.
“This (delay) is good for Zuma, and he will exploit this opportunity in the rank and file of the ANC to present himself as a victim,” Madlala said.
Thales, responding through an international public relations company with a presence in the country, when asked what information was wanted from the NPA, said: “Thales does not comment on ongoing legal procedures.”