Cape Town - The Jacob Zuma corruption trial, which was due to be heard at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday, is expected to be postponed, effectively meaning that the February 2021 date set by the State to get the trial off the ground will not be met.
Sources within the judiciary told Independent Media on Sunday that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Zuma and Thales’s lawyers have mutually agreed to postpone the matter to another date.
However, by Sunday afternoon that decision had yet to be certified by a judge so that it could be deemed legally binding. The postponement has been made necessary by the fact that a ruling is yet to be handed down in the matter between Thales (co-accused in the case) versus the NPA. The French arms company, which is accused of bribing Zuma, wants the raft of racketeering charges against it to be set aside.
“By mutual agreement, parties agreed after a meeting that the matter should be postponed to a later date. So this means Zuma would not be in court on Tuesday as expected,” the source said.
Zuma’s instructing lawyer, advocate Eric Mabuza, did not comment about the latest twist while the spokesperson of the NPA, Bulelwa Makeke confirmed the uncertified agreement by all parties.
"We are waiting for the draft consent order to be signed by the presiding judge, so it's open ended at the moment," Makeke said.
This is the second postponement of its kind, with the first one taking place in September when it became clear that with the Thales matter on the way, parties should not incur unnecessary costs by going to court and the matter was moved to December 10.
In the case, 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 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 some tenders to supply arms during the procurement.
Meanwhile, the NPA has revealed that it has lined up 210 witnesses to help it in the matter. Without naming the witnesses, the director of public prosecutions in KZN, advocate Elaine Zungu, told Independent Media that they had notified the courts about their number of witnesses.
"There are some named 210 witnesses on the list of State witnesses filed with the High Court in terms of section 144(3)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Act, No 51 of 1977," Zungu told Independent Media when asked about the number of witnesses.
While they have not named them, one confirmed witness for the State is Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille. However, while the State intends to rely on her testimony to secure a conviction against Zuma, De Lille told Independent Media in September this year that the NPA had yet to obtain her statement.
"From then, I have not heard from them but, yes, I am still available and ready to testify in the case," De Lille said on September 7.