Former President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - Jacob Zuma’s lawyer Daniel Mantsha has told the media at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday morning that the defence team will strongly argue that prosecuting the former president was against the Constitution and the country’s laws. 

In a brief interview conducted inside Courtroom A before proceedings started, Mansha, who was doorstepped by journalists, said Zuma’s team will deal with the constitutionality of his prosecution. 

Zuma and his co-accused French arms manufacturing company Thales will formally apply for leave to appeal the same court judgment. 

“The issue today is whether the country should tolerate prosecutions, which are conducted inconsistent with the constitution and inconsistent with the law. That is the main question that this court should deal with today.  

“The argument we bring today is that the democratic South Africa is governed by Constitution of which the people of South Africa in 1994 and 1996 opted for a prosecution in terms of the constitution, in terms of the law and in terms of the prosecution court,” he said.

The court had last month dismissed Zuma and Thales’s applications for a permanent stay of prosecution of the arms deal related to fraud and corruption charges. Zuma had earlier this month filed application to appeal the judgment against his application for the stay of prosecution. The National Prosecuting Authority filed its responding papers on Monday. 

In the application papers, Zuma’s lawyers claimed judges Bhekisisa Mnguni, Thoba Poyo-Dlwati and Esther Steyn failed to apply their minds to the constitutional prejudice Zuma suffered because of the delay of the trial.

They claimed that Zuma should have been prosecuted together with his former financial adviser and fraudster Schabir Shaik, who was handed a 15-year sentence in 2005.

Zuma’s fraud, corruption and money laundering charges relate to the 1999 R30 billion worth arms deal in which Shaik had, according to court judgement, facilitated a bribe so that he could protect Thales from future prosecution.

In the court papers, Zuma denied the judges’ findings that he had contributed to the delay of charges and trial. 

Zuma also claimed that the judges had overlooked this claimed that the charges against him were contaminated by political interference following discovery of spy tapes, which were believed to be containing conversation between former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka and former Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy plotting to charge Zuma before the 2007 ANC Polokwane conference in order to assist his predecessor Thabo Mbeki retaining party presidency.

Zuma would not be present in court. Zuma wants permission to proceed to the Supreme Court of Appeal.   

The Independent Media had reported this week that NPA wanted Zuma fined R400 000 for disrespecting judges in his court papers. This follows his accusation that the court violated some sections of the Criminal Procedure Act.  

When asked to react to NPA claims that Zuma’s legal team had disrespected the judges, Mantsha said he would not comment on that before the hearing.

“Let us wait for the hearing to commence. The matter would probably be raised during the proceedings today, and thereafter we can comment after the proceedings,” said Mantsha.  

He said it was a personal matter when asked about Zuma’s health. Zuma had postponed his appearance at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture to due to illness.

Political Bureau