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Jacob Zuma speech: 5 takeaway messages before trial

Published May 18, 2021


Durban - Former president Jacob Zuma’s long-awaited corruption trial returned to the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday but, as in the past, there were more delays.

The latest issue to stall the case was a notification that Zuma’s legal team would be filing an application to have State advocate Billy Downer SC recused as the lead prosecutor.

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The reasons for the recusal application are expected to be divulged in court next Wednesday. Downer shot to fame when he secured the conviction of Zuma’s friend and former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, the man accused of bribing Zuma in order to score arms-deal contracts in 2005.

While addressing his supporters outside the court on Monday, Zuma said that if the judiciary failed to consider his concerns, he might resort to defiance.

Here are five hot takes from Zuma’s speech:

1. The charge sheet has been amended several times

Speaking in isiZulu, Zuma told his supporters that “this long trial” has several anomalies, among them that his charge sheet had been amended several times.

“You can’t face charges for more than two years and have the charge sheet spelling out the charges amended. You chop and change them, no, you can’t do that,” Zuma said.

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2. Zuma implied that Downer insulted him

Zuma implied that Downer was part of the people who were caught in the infamous spy tapes of April 2009, claiming he insulted him. As such, he contested and said he could not lead the prosecution.

“This trial includes people who were conniving and gossiping with investigators, saying this one should be arrested… even those in charge of the law were saying that, and there were also those who were insulting me… but right now they are in charge of the trial,” he said.

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3. Is the trial conducted fairly?

In an argument similar to the one Zuma raised in his failed permanent stay of prosecution bid in May 2019, he said the pertinent question was whether justice would be applied. If it was not, he would rebel.

“I am prepared to correct them whenever the law is being bent. If those in charge of the law don’t correct that and they also contribute to its violation, we will have a bitter fight, have a really bitter fight.

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4. I will defy them if they use the law against me

Perhaps the biggest bombshell during the speech by the former president was that he was again ready to defy the court. Zuma has defied the Constitutional Court which is yet to hand down its judgment against him, for his refusal to appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.

“If I realise that they are bending the law and abusing their privileges as enforcers of it, I will fight back. If they say ’move in here’ (punishment by jailing), I will refuse, I am not going in here. Once I say that there is no turning back,” he said.

5. I fought for this democracy and I want justice

Zuma told his supporters that he wanted justice and that he could not fooled when the law was being misused, because he had fought for democracy.

“I want them to do justice and apply the law to be applied accordingly. I am one of the people who fought for the current laws under this democracy, I was fighting for a true democracy. So, you cannot trick me today and (say) this is a true democracy. No.”

Political Bureau