WATCH: Jacob Zuma corruption trial turns Pietermaritzburg High Court into hive of activity
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Pietermaritzburg - The Pietermaritzburg High Court and its precinct were turned into a hive of activity on Monday morning as the long-mothballed corruption, fraud and money laundering case against former president Jacob Zuma got under way.
Zuma is accused of pocketing bribes from Durban businessman Schabir Shaik during the procurement of arms between 1998 and 1999. The bribes allegedly came from Thales, a French arms company that scored some dubious tenders during the procurement. It is a co-accused in the matter.
Unexpectedly, the Zuma trial drew scores of senior ANC members, both at provincial and national level, to support the embattled former president.
Among those who came to court to offer their support were provincial executive committee members of the ruling party in KZN, Premier Sihle Zikalala, eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane Zulu.
High profile @MYANC members including Supra Mahumapelo waiting for former president Jacob Zuma to arrive at the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Video: Sihle Mavuso/IOL Politics#Zumatrial #JacobZuma pic.twitter.com/oInpW8wiEa— IOL News (@IOL) May 17, 2021
From a national level, the case was attended by ANC national executive committee members Tony Yengeni and Bongani Bongo and suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. Also in court were Carl Niehaus and former North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo. Mahumapelo said Zuma must be forgiven and allowed to quietly disappear from the spotlight.
Outside the court, Zuma’s supporters, from as far as Mpumalanga, were gathering in the hope that he would address them as soon as the matter had been concluded for the day.
Inside the court, were the National Prosecuting Authority’s legal team, led by advocate Billy Downer SC (senior counsel), and Thale’s legal team, led by advocate Barry Roux SC.
It was unclear who was going to represent Zuma. His previous attorney said he was in court only to explain why he parted ways with his client.
Only a handful of supporters of former president Jacob Zuma can be seen outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court ahead of his appearance on Monday. Video: @NewsBotZA /IOL Politics#JacobZuma #corruption #court pic.twitter.com/es8tryzZVB— IOL News (@IOL) May 17, 2021
While everybody was waiting and a team of technicians were setting up big screens inside the court, minister Patricia de Lille walked in. The minister will be the State's first witness in the corruption and money-laundering trial. She later told that media she was ready. She also said she was pleased that Judge Willie Seriti and another judge were facing a probe for their arms deal commission findings that had been set aside.
De Lille said it was clear that the Seriti commission "had a predetermined outcome."
Minutes before 10am, a tired-looking Zuma, who was wearing a navy blue suit and a tie, walked into the dock.
As he did so, Yengeni, with a raised fist, shouted: "Long live Jacob Zuma! Long live!" from the packed public gallery. His brief slogan was supported by the gallery who, in turn, shouted "Long Live!"
Patiently waiting, Zuma chatted to a man who appeared to be his new lawyer.