EXCLUSIVE: Jacob Zuma opens up about Arms Deal as lawyer fights court over KPMG delays
Former President Jacob Zuma has finally spoken out on his long-awaited Arms Deal trial.
Zuma spoke exclusively to Independent Media on the trial which was set to resume on May 6 but has now been postponed to June 23. Insiders say this move has little to do with the Covid-19 pandemic but the courts' "last minute hustle to remove KPMG from with witness list".
Zuma has told Independent Media that he is ready to show South Africans the real thieves.
"I've always said I wanted my day in court. It is time for South Africans to hear the truth. It is time. My silence has always been to keep unity but it is now time," Zuma said.
On Wednesday, the Jacob Zuma Foundation confirmed to Independent Media that the Constitutional Court had approved Zuma’s withdrawal of his bid for a permanent stay of prosecution.
According to Zuma's foundation, Zuma had not wanted a stay from prosecution, even though his previous lawyer pushed for one.
"The former president wants to air his part. The court should allow him to do that. This case has been pending for the last 20 years. There shouldn't be these delaying tactics against him. This case can no longer be politicised, as it has been from the very beginning. What we want is a fair and just process", the foundation said.
The withdrawal of the bid for a permanent stay of prosecution happened after Zuma axed his long time attorney Daniel Mantsha and replaced him with Eric Mabuza attorneys - an attorney in close links to Advocate and EFF member, Dali Mpofu.
According to insiders, Zuma's family was aggrieved, feeling that Mantsha had "dropped the ball". The sources also revealed that the National Prosecuting Authority had 'silently' instituted an investigation into accounting firm KPMG. It is believed that KPMG was going to take the witness stand against Zuma but may face Mabuza's brunt in court since the firm's grave reputational damage in the recent years.
In a letter Independent Media is in possession of, Mabuza Attorneys wrote to the court to seek clarity on why the state has instituted an investigation into KPMG in the eve of the trial.
The letter reads:
"1. Our client was naturally taken aback to learn that some 15 years later and more so on the eve of the trial the State is still gathering or putting together evidence to be used in the trial. This literally means that despite what it previously communicated to our client and the public the State is nowhere near ready for the trial.
2. The fact that we have not been given all the evidence which will be used in the trial is gravely prejudicial against our client in that our client cannot finalise his request for further particulars let alone start preparing for the trial. In our respectful view this will have a material bearing on the pre-trial activities which may need to be finalisedbefore the next court appearance on 23 June 2020. In this regard our client reserves his rights.
3. Be that as it may, now that the State has formally admitted on record that it is compiling new forensic report(s) to be used in the trial we accordingly request the State to explain and/or provide the following information:
- Will the new forensic report(s) have any bearing or relevance on the case against our client? If so,
- Why were we not formally notified that the State is compiling new forensic report(s)? A full and proper explanation is required.
- Does the State intend to abandon or withdraw or supplement the KPMG Forensic Investigation Report dated 2 September 2006?
- If so, why and what are the reasons for doing so? We need a full and proper explanation in this regard.
- We need a copy of the request for particulars filed by Thales which allegedly prompted the State to consider preparing new forensic report(s) including any response thereto, if any."
Mabuza's letter to the court has thrown a spanner in works, arguing that the court is proving prejudice to Zuma.
While Zuma's new lawyer is pushing for his day in court, his relationship with Mantsha is said to have gone sour after the Pietermaritzburg High Court issued a warrant of arrest for Zuma after missing a court appearance.
Zuma missed the January court appearance when receiving medical treatment in Cuba for a recurring chest condition. The rift between Zuma and Mantsha is said to also been exaggerated by comments made by EFF leader Julius Malema when he said "it was not the responsibility of Zuma's lawyers to defend the sick note but it was the responsibility of his doctors".
Zuma's foundation declined to answer on whether some of the witnesses had also withdrawn their statements. "We can't speak for anyone. That is not our place. If other witnesses have suddenly withdrawn their statement, the court must be very concerned about that".
KPMG has not responded to questions.