WATCH: Jacob Zuma corruption trial moved to September 8
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Pietermaritzburg - Graft-accused former President Jacob Zuma heard on Tuesday that his trial was postponed to September 8.
French arms company, Thales, the second accused in the high-profile graft trial, said it would launch a civil application to have the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decision to charge it with racketeering set aside.
Both Zuma and Thales are accused of having a corrupt hand in the now-infamous South African multi-billion arms deal of the late 90s. The NPA alleges that Zuma got bribes from Thales for his political influence during the procurement and the bribes were channelled via Schabir Shaik
Advocate Billy Downer SC (senior counsel) told the court that they were ready to get the case heard as soon as possible. He even blamed Zuma's lawyers for not being ready, saying they were still requesting some information from them.
"We have told the court we are ready. What is holding us up now is their request for further particulars. I will address the court on that. That means logically, unfortunately, that it is they who are not ready to go to trial because they say they do not have sufficient information.
"They want more information, they want further particulars, they can't plead, they are not ready to formulate their defence," Downer said.
Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC said for years the NPA kept on saying they are ready for the trial and it has since resorted to "ever shifting goalposts" tactics. He even said Tuesday's hearing was meant to save face for the State.
Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng /African News Agency (ANA)
"We are here today, risking him and every other person, because Mr Downer couldn't get his way (to postpone the trial to 2021). That is really why we are here...
"He says this morning he doesn't have a problem with October, but we don't have a problem with October, so why are we here... It's disturbing that the State has been running this the way he has been running it, and his shifting reasons are worrying to me," Sikhakhane argued before court.
At some point, a combative Sikhakhane proposed that the matter be struck off the court roll until the NPA is ready. But the suggestion was quickly shot down by the judge citing the fact that the NPA says it is ready as well.
It appeared that the presiding judge was only left to determine dates and times for the start of the hearing until Advocate Barry Roux, who was representing Thales, indicated that they are challenging the racketeering charges against the French company.
The judge had to accommodate that application and adjourned the matter to September 8 this year and all parties agreed to the date.
In the same court, Downer also told the judge that they want to amend the Zuma charge to add some six payments they discovered during a mop-up process.
Despite this, Advocate Eric Mabuza, the other Zuma lawyer in the matter, later said the additions are not significant and even with them, they as the defence team, are ready for the matter to proceed.
Mabuza further lamented that the postponement was not good for them as they want a speedy trial.
Jacob Zuma arrives at the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng /African News Agency (ANA)
The warrant of arrest which was issued against him by Judge Dhaya Pillay on February 4 this year was withdrawn. This was after Sikhakhane produced a sick note to back their previous claims that he was sick. The NPA did not challenge the letter and accepted.
It was after that acceptance that the presiding judge for the day, Judge Kate Pillay told Zuma that the warrant had been withdrawn. The withdrawal was followed by minor clapping and ululation in the public gallery where some of Zuma's supporters were seated.