The corruption trial of former president Jacob Zuma is set to return to Pietermaritzburg High Court today.
However, it is expected to face another adjournment because the Supreme Court of Appeal was yet to deal with Zuma’s application to relook at the court’s decision to dismiss without any hearing his application for the recusal of the National Prosecuting Authority’s advocate, Billy Downer SC.
This trial has faced a number of lengthy adjournments since the charges were reinstated in February 2018, soon after Zuma was recalled as president of the country.
The last delay was due to Zuma’s application to the outgoing president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Mandisa Maya.
Zuma wanted Downer to be recused as he was accusing him of unethical conduct including leaking sensitive information about the case to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spies and selected South African journalists.
When the matter was heard early last month, Judge Piet Koen postponed it to May, saying Zuma’s application to Judge Maya was equivalent to an appeal. As such, they could not carry on before the application was heard.
The former head of state is facing a raft of corruption, money laundering and racketeering charges emanating from the arms deal of the late 1990s.
The State alleges that Zuma pocketed bribes from Schabir Shaik, his former financial adviser, to shield Thales (co-accused in the case), a French arms company that won some tenders.
In May last year, Zuma pleaded not guilty to the 18 charges that had been laid against him by the State. Among the revelations in the charge sheet is that Zuma started receiving bribes from Shaik in 1995, and that ran until 2005.
In total, the undue benefits allegedly amounted to roughly R4.7 million. This allegedly showed that despite Zuma knowing from as early as 2001 that he was being investigated by the Scorpions for receiving bribes from Shaik, he continued with the alleged illegal acts.
Charging him with fraud in one of the counts, the State alleged that despite receiving benefits amounting to R3.6m from Shaik, Zuma misled Parliament by declaring that he did not receive any financial sponsorship between 1999 and 2005. That was when he was deputy president to Thabo Mbeki.