Former South African President Jacob Zuma appears in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Zuma, who was not in court has filed through his lawyers on Friday Nov. 22, 2019, to appeal a court ruling that cleared the way for him to be prosecuted for corruption. (Michele Spatari/Pool via AP, File)
Pietermaritzburg - The State has asked that further delays be avoided so former president Jacob Zuma can stand trial as soon as possible. The State made a submission as Zuma’s counsel fought to prevent him from being prosecuted for corruption.

State prosecutor advocate Andrew Breitenbach told the Pietermaritzburg High Court Zuma should not be granted leave to appeal against the dismissal of his application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

Breitenbach made the plea to judges Bhekisisa Mnguni, Thoba Poyo-Dlwati and Esther Steyn during a day-long hearing in which he locked horns with Zuma’s representative, advocate Daniel Mantsha.

Zuma’s legal team was in court to formally apply for leave to appeal against the same court’s ruling against his application for a permanent stay of prosecution on the arms deal-related criminal charges.

Zuma is facing the charges together with French arms manufacturing company Thales, which was represented by advocate Anton Katz in court.

“This application for leave to appeal intends to delay his prosecution. Zuma must have his day in court,” said Breitenbach.

“The case must be concluded as soon as possible.”

Both Zuma and Thales are seeking to appeal against the court’s dismissal of their applications for a permanent stay of prosecution on the arms deal-related fraud and corruption charges.

Earlier this month, Zuma filed an application to appeal and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) filed its responding papers on Monday.

Among Breitenbach’s arguments was that Mantsha was wrong in concluding that if the trial continued, Zuma would be compromised in terms of the trial at which his former financial adviser, Shabir Shaik, was convicted in 2005.

“There is no prospect of an appeal upholding Mr Zuma’s unsubstantiated allegation that the NPA decision to prosecute Mr Shaik was a dry run for the prosecution of Mr Zuma, as the reason is not underpinned by any fact,” said Breitenbach.

He said the argument by Zuma that it was wrong for the State to prosecute him separately from Durban-based businessman Shaik had been previously dealt with substantially in court.

“There is no principle in our law that requires that co-accused be prosecuted together,” he said.

He said Zuma’s legal team had in its notice of application for leave to appeal painted the wrong picture that during a trial, the court would read the proceedings of Shaik’s trial record and proceed to sentencing.

“That totally misunderstands the nature of our criminal justice system. The State has presented Mr Zuma with an indictment and he would be called to plead to the charges, and if he pleads not guilty, the State must produce evidence in support of the allegations it made against him.

“He would have opportunity to object to the admissibility of the evidence,” said Breitenbach.

Mantsha had argued that there was unfairness in trying Zuma as the charges against him were contaminated by a conversation between former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka and former Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy, who he said allegedly plotted to charge Zuma before the 2007 ANC Polokwane conference in order to help his predecessor, former president Thabo Mbeki, retain the party presidency.

Mantsha argued that Shaik’s prosecution was a test to evaluate whether Zuma could be prosecuted successfully.

“Mr Ngcuka’s decision is intertwined with the decision firstly to announce that there is a prima facie case against Mr Zuma but he won’t be charged.

“But central to that is the decision not to charge him with Shaik. When Shaik is now convicted, the prosecutors say, ‘Aha! We got it, our case is tight.’

“That is my submission... a situation of unfairness for the accused you decided not to charge with the other one,” said Mantsha.

Mantsha told the judges there was a reasonable prospect of other courts holding views contrary to theirs “about the limitation of the possibility of a fair trial (of) someone who is simply not charged because (the) State wanted a dry run.”

The State has requested the judges to rule with costs against Zuma and Thales.

Katz told Independent Media after the hearings that he had filed papers of appeal at the Constitutional Court.

“But if this court refuses to grant us leave to appear, we will abandon the appeal,” he said.

Mnguni said the court would rule on the matter next Friday.

Politics Bureau