Former president Jacob Zuma is due to stand 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. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Former president Jacob Zuma is due to stand 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. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

State alleges Jacob Zuma survived on bribes while MEC and deputy president

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published May 17, 2021

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Johannesburg - Former president Jacob Zuma faces the daunting task in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday of defending himself against allegations that he survived on bribes while the MEC of a provincial government and deputy president of South Africa.

Zuma is due to stand 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 expected to conduct his own legal representation.

Part of the corruption charges against him include upgrades made at his Nkandla homestead in March 2001 which were allegedly paid for by his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, as part of a bribe.

Zuma is charged along with French company Thales, which sought arms deal bids while Zuma was MEC for Economic Affairs in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature and later deputy president of the country.

These allegations are included in a 90-page indictment served on Zuma on March 23, 2018 by the prosecution. Detailing the corruption, the State alleges that Shaik, Thales and Thomson-CSF, through its representatives, conspired to pay R500 000 to Zuma annually as a bribe in exchange for his protection against any investigation into the corvettes (Project Sitrion), part of the arms deal, and for his support of the Thomson-CSF group for future projects.

According to the State, these annual payments were to continue until the first payments of dividends by African Defence Systems.

“It was agreed between the parties that the bribes would not be paid directly to Zuma, but that some method of payment would be employed that was calculated to disguise the true nature of the payments so as to avoid detection.

“Consequently, during the period late 2000 and early 2001, Kobifin (Pty) Ltd entered into a so-called ‘service provider agreement’ with Thomson-CSF International Africa Ltd in Mauritius, as a device to conceal or disguise the true nature and source of the payment of a bribe,” the State alleges.

It further alleges that, in terms of the agreement, remuneration was to be paid in instalments of R250 000.

The first two instalments were initially due before the end of December 2000 and on February 28, 2001 respectively.

Shaik allegedly stipulated that the total remuneration was to be R1 million.

“Zuma needed funds to pay for the development of his traditional residential village estate at Nkandla in rural northern KZN. Plans for the developments were dated March 2000. The development commenced in approximately July 2000,” the State alleges.

“The final tender amount agreed to was R1 340 000 (after the development commenced with).

“The development was finalised during March 2001,” the state alleges, saying various arrangements were made during the construction and subsequently to provide finance on Zuma’s behalf.

“At no stage during the construction and thereafter has Zuma been able to settle the outstanding amount or obtain finance without the intervention and assistance of third parties, including arrangements for payment through Shaik in accordance with the agreement to disguise payments to Zuma,” the State alleges.

According to the State, the first payment of R245 725.00 was made on February 16, 2001 from Thales International Africa - Mauritius to the ABSA current account of Kobitech as a first payment of the Development Africa scheme.

The state also listed a number of similar patterns of payments for the Development Africa scheme. According to the state all these were bribes.

The state alleges between 25 October 1995 to July 1, 2005, the Nkobi Group and Thales formed a common purpose to bribe the former president while he was MEC for Economic Affairs in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature and later while he was deputy president of South Africa.

According to the indictment, the two groups paid an amount of R4 million through 783 payments to Zuma.

The State alleges that some of the scheduled payments were described in Nkobi documents as loans, although the treatment was inconsistent.

“The final accounting treatment of R1 137 722.48 of the total payments of R4 072 499.85 does not reflect the payments as loans. However, the scheduled payments were intended by Schabir Shaik, the Nkobi group and the present accused as bribes.

“The funds were paid without security. This is not a usual commercial practice with banks, more specifically of a customer with Zuma’s risk profile. This accordingly constitutes a benefit,” the state alleges.

Contesting claims that the monies were loans given to Zuma, the state is expected to argue that the Nkobi Group made no effort to recover any of the payments from Zuma.

“This failure to demand repayment is itself a benefit to Zuma. Shaik did not intend to enforce the terms of the “loan” and neither has he done so. This is a benefit,” the indictment alleges.

According to the charge sheet, South Africa’s interim constitution and final constitution imposed certain duties upon Zuma by virtue of his office as an MEC of a province.

The State also alleges that the final Constitution also barred Zuma from gaining additional income.

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Political Bureau

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