PIETERMARITZBURG – Former president Jacob Zuma’s attempts to have the graft charges he is facing permanently halted took a surprise turn in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Thursday as his legal team tried to present new evidence for an old alleged conspiracy against Zuma.
Senior Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, acting for Zuma, told the court he had a letter showing that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was still investigating the possibility of political interference in Zuma’s case by former president Thabo Mbeki and former justice minister Penuell Maduna as early as March 2018.
Sikhakhane had detailed the alleged political interference theory on Monday, in the same court as he argued for a permanent stay of prosecution for his client. He told the court that should he be able to get hold of documentary proof, he would present it later in the week.
Zuma has maintained that the decision to first charge him in 2005, was politically motivated to ensure he did not ascend to the position of ANC president and ultimately state president.
The State has denied this, saying Zuma should provide proof of a political conspiracy.
Acting for the State, Advocate Wim Trengove again poured cold water on the theory on Thursday morning, calling the “conspiracy theories” “unfounded and disputed”.
The alleged conspiracy, according to Zuma’s affidavits, also involved former NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka and former Scorpions’ head Leonard McCarthy. Ngcuka and McCarthy were recorded talking about Zuma and the timing of the charges brought against him in what is now known as the “spy tapes”.
“I am going to read a letter. My attorney has come to know of a letter. And I promised on Monday that if we do...come into contact with a document, we will tell this court what that document is,” Sikhakhane told judges Jerome Mnguni, Esther Steyn and Thoba Poyo-Dlwati just before close of court on Thursday. The document was an NPA letter, said Sikhakhane.
“The document I am about to read, will tell you that in March 2018, this NPA that tells you that the role of Maduna was limited... was still checking facts about that and asking about an investigation into his involvement in bribes and the involvement of Thabo Mbeki, in a letter.”
Trengove, who had argued that Zuma’s application for a permanent stay be rejected earlier in the day, said that if Sikhakhane wanted to introduce “fresh evidence”, he should “bring an application and motivate for it”.
After a deliberation by the judges, it was decided if Sikhakhane and Trengove could not “sort out the matter” of the new evidence between themselves, Sikhakhane would have to bring an application to have the letter admitted into court.
Zuma, accused one, is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud for allegedly receiving bribe money from French arms' company Thales via his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik.
The case relates to the country’s contentious arms deal of the 1990s, in which Thales secured a multi-billion rand contract to supply combat systems for the South African navy.
Thales, accused two, is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption and one count of money laundering. Thales has also been before the court this week arguing for a permanent stay of prosecution. The State also argued on Thursday for Thales' permanent stay application to be rejected.
The matter will continue.