Zuma corruption trial: It’s back to spy tapes arguments for former president
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Durban - The umpteenth sitting of the corruption, fraud and money laundering trial of former president Jacob Zuma and the subsequent tabling of the main legal arguments about why he wants Advocate Billy Downer SC recused as lead prosecutor, has reversed the country back to the spy tapes arguments.
This was as Zuma on Wednesday, through his new legal arsenal, Advocate Dali Mpofu, working with Advocate Thabani Masuku SC, told Judge Piet Koen of the Pietermaritzburg High Court that Downer, who is the state advocate for the NPA in the case, leaked some information to journalist Sam Sole and unethically interacted with the then head of Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy, prior to charging him.
He argued that led to the information falling into the hands of the CIA, the spy agency of the US - thus mudding the trial, he argued in court.
Most of this is contained in the now opened spy tapes which Zuma used in April 2009 to force the then head of the NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe to drop the corruption charges against him. However, years later, the DA launched a court challenge and the decision was set aside and so was the reliance on the information contained in the tapes.
In May 2019, Zuma filed a permanent stay of prosecution with the same court, alleging that the conduct of Downer, McCarthy and others violated his right to a fair trial. His court bid failed and so did an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Despite all this, the case is back to that circle of arguments with Zuma this time around even telling his supporters who camped outside the court that he was optimistic he would win the battle. If he gets his way, the corruption trial would be off the court roll as a tainted case would not be fair to him.
“I think by the end of this year, this case would have been totally squashed, it will no longer be there. We are getting to the end of this case now," Zuma told the supporters.
In an impromptu fight back, the NPA announced that it has appointed four senior advocates to fight Zuma’s legal challenge when it returns to court on July 19.
The team of four would be led by Adv Tim Trengove, the legal eagle who in the past has helped it to fight Zuma and Thales, the French arms manufacturing company which is in the dock with Zuma after the NPA alleged it was behind the arms deal bribes which were paid through Schabir Shaik's Nkobi Holdings based in Durban.
The other advocates who are Andrew Breitenbach SC, advocate Hephizibah Rajah and advocate Ncumisa Mayosi.
Speaking to the media outside court on Wednesday, NPA's spokesperson Sipho Ngwema, said they are ready to fend off the challenge by Zuma and his legal team as they "have seen this movie before."
This was a reference to the fact that the arguments by Zuma have been previously thrashed out by three courts on three different occasions.
While the application to force Downer to recuse himself would be heard in July, the case moved an inch for the first time in 16 years as Zuma's charges were for the first time read out to him and he was asked to plead and said: "I plead not guilty."
He later told his supporters that: “Today the judge asked me whether I know the charges or not and I said I don’t know even one of these cases. Now I want the trial to proceed, that is if it is going to proceed because I am saying if it proceeds, it will not be fair.”