Former president Jacob Zuma in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency(ANA)

Durban - The Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday dismissed the applications for permanent stays of prosecution in the graft case faced by former South African president Jacob Zuma and arms manufacturer Thales, with costs.

The judgment was an unanimous one made by judges Jerome Mnguni, Esther Steyn and Thoba Poyo-Dlwati.  

Judge Mnguni read the order, but not the entire judgment.

This means that the long-awaited graft trial linked to the so-called “arms deal” is set to go ahead. It had already been set down to start on Tuesday at the same court.

Should Zuma, 77, and Thales want to appeal the decision, they will have to do so within the next 15 days.  

Zuma’s appearance lasted less than two minutes, and although there was a strong police presence outside the courthouse, none of his usual throng of supporters were at the court.

Although investigations started into the arms deal in the early 2000s, Zuma was first charged in June 2005 following the conviction of his former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, on two counts of corruption and one of fraud.

Shaik was convicted for making “regular, corrupt payments” to Zuma between 1995 and 2002. 

Some of these payments were allegedly from Thales, via Shaik, to keep the company away from the then investigation into the arms deal and to look favourably on the company in any future contracts.

The NPA had the opportunity to prosecute Zuma alongside Shaik in 2004 but declined to do so, even though it said it had a prima facie case against Zuma. 

However, then NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka said he did not believe there was a reasonable prospect of winning the case.

This was despite one of the lead prosecutors, advocate Billy Downer, believing the case could have been successfully prosecuted. 

A decision was again taken by the NPA to prosecute Zuma in 2005 and in 2007 (under different NPA heads) but withdrawn again in 2009 due to the so-called “spy tapes”.

The spy tapes are recordings of Ngcuka and former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy (speaking after Ngcuka had resigned) about the timing of charging Zuma.

This was alleged to be political interference as Zuma was at the time involved in contesting former president Thabo Mbeki for the role of the ANC presidency and ultimately for president of the country. 

Much was made of this alleged political interference when Zuma's legal team argued for the permanent stay in May. 

Charges against Zuma and Thales were again reinstated in 2018.

African News Agency/ANA