NPA ’looking forward’ to proving its case against Jacob Zuma and Thales in court
Durban - The National Prosecuting Authority has welcomed the decision of the High Court in Pietermaritzburg to throw out the application by French arms company Thales to challenge the racketeering charges against it.
It said on Friday that the decision would now allow for the trial to go ahead.
Thales is charged with former president Jacob Zuma in the high court and the case has been dragging on for years now.
NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said they want the case to proceed.
“The NPA welcomes the decision of the high court to dismiss the application of the French arms company Thales challenging racketeering charges against it. We now look forward to the criminal hearing,” said Ngwema.
The court’s decision could see the protracted case, which has dragged on for close to two decades, finally go to trial this year as the NPA attempts to finally put to bed one of the longest-running court cases in the country’s democratic dispensation.
Last October, the NPA had argued that it had charged Thales with racketeering as the company had knowingly participated in a scheme to bribe Zuma in return for his political influence and protection.
The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) said the matter should now go ahead. Lawson Naidoo of Casac said that it had been unlikely that the French arms company would have emerged with a favourable ruling.
Naidoo said that this was because if Thales felt that they had a defence to the charge of racketeering, in particular, the trial would be the appropriate time to raise that defence and not in a separate application to the court.
“This is a welcome development and it now means that the criminal prosecution of both Thales as well as Mr Zuma can go ahead and they can raise any defence that they wish to do during the course of the trial,” Naidoo said.
Zuma has always maintained that he was innocent and that the charges levelled against him were politically motivated and a part of a political ploy to destroy him, while his eldest son, Edward Zuma, last month told Independent Media that the NPA was “wasting our time” and that the NPA “has never been prepared from day one when they charged Zuma”.
However, Naidoo said that Edward Zuma’s comments were not correct as the NPA had been preparing the case for many years and would be able to put forward a case in the prosecution when the matter goes to trial.
Zuma is accused of receiving several bribes during the procurement process of the multibillion arms deal around 1998 and 1999, a time during which Zuma was the MEC for Economic Development in KwaZulu-Natal.
Among the bribes that Zuma is alleged to have pocketed is a R500 000 annual retainer that was allegedly paid by Thales through his then financial adviser, Schabir Schaik, whose Nkobi Holdings was a BEE partner to Thales in the deal.
Following the court’s decision, NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said: “The National Prosecuting Authority welcomes the decision of the high court to dismiss the application of the French arms company Thales challenging racketeering charges against it. We now look forward to the criminal hearing.”