Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial postponed to May 26
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Durban - Former president Jacob Zuma is ready to proceed with the corruption and racketeering trial against him, his legal team told the Pietermaritzburg High Court as trial proceedings were postponed until May 26.
Proceedings on Monday began with Judge Piet Koen granting Zuma's former lawyer, Eric Mabuza, leave to withdraw as Zuma’s legal representative.
Zuma is on trial on charges of racketeering, two counts of corruption and 12 counts of fraud – nine of which are for allegedly making false income tax returns. He is charged along with French arms manufacturer Thales.
Zuma's court trial has been much anticipated and was preceded by Zuma's legal team recusing itself from representing him. His strong legal team which consisted of his Mabuza and advocate Muzi Sikhakhane parted ways with him three weeks before the trial was set to begin.
His new legal representative is advocate Thabani Masuku.
The start of proceedings on Monday, saw lead prosecutor Billy Downer approaching Koen on an application for his possible recusal. Downer said he and the National Prosecuting Authority had yet to see the application. Downer said the NPA had not been given notice of the application plea.
Koen said that in his understanding, a special plea application would be filed on behalf of the accused, Zuma, explaining the basis of the application. In turn, the NPA would be given an opportunity to respond with an affidavit.
Masuku, for Zuma, said he accepted that at the next appearance, on May 26, they would enter a plea application of not guilty placed before the court.
Affidavits from the NPA and Zuma will have to be filed before next week Wednesday.
"This trial is adjourned to May 26, and the accused are warned to be present on that day and it is expected that a plea will be recorded," Koen said.
Zuma, wearing a mask and looking cheerful, attended the court hearing.
He was flanked by his supporters from the ANC, among them former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo and suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala was also present, reportedly on behalf of the ANC.
Minister of Public Works Patricia De Lille was expected to be the first witness to take the stand when the trial began.
De Lille, who first blew the whistle on the multibillion rand arms deal almost 22 years ago, told Independent Media that the National Prosecuting Authority had asked to her give evidence on the document she presented in the National Assembly on September 9, 1999.
De Lille is expected to take the stand when the trial resumes.
Thales, represented by advocate Barry Roux, also indicated its willingness for the trial to stary, saying it was ready.