Zuma, Thales likely to ask for postponement as graft trial begins
Pietermaritzburg - Former president Jacob Zuma and his co-accused French arms company Thales might on Tuesday ask the Pietermaritzburg High Court to postpone the beginning of their corruption trial in order to make another attempt to squash the case, said legal expert Advocate Makhosazana Mbonani.
Zuma and Thales had late last week suffered a defeat when a full bench rejected their application for a permanent stay of prosecution.
However, Mbonani said the two still had other avenues to get the charges against them scrapped permanently.
“This then gives the applicants 15 court dates to bring an application to appeal the decision and have it set aside.
“They may approach the Supreme Court of Appeal and if they are not successful there, they may approach the Constitutional Court for a decision in their favour,” said Mbonani.
Judges Bhekisisa Mnguni, Thoba Poyo-Dlwati and Esten Steyn had on October 11 dismissed Zuma and Thales’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution.
The judges had, among others, found that Zuma had not suffered any prejudice by not being tried together with his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik.
The court had also dismissed Zuma’s claims that since the case had been delayed for about 14 years it would legally be unfair to continue with it now.
“If their intention is to appeal the decision today, (as the holding day for the trial to begin) that means they are going to ask for a postponement pending them filing the application to appeal,” Mbonani said.
She said both accused were legally within their rights to appeal the October 11 court decision.
“Any applicant is entitled to an appeal, but you see from the judgment that was handed down on Friday (October 11) it was the sentiment of Zuma’s legal team in the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment on the spy tape case that since the decision to reinstate was deemed not irrational, they announced that they would use all legal avenues to bring this to an end,” she said.
Zuma’s legal team had argued that the so-called spy tapes had revealed that the arms-deal case was politically mangled as the alleged recorded conversation between former NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka and former Scorpion head Leonard McCarthy had shown that the two had aimed at assisting former president Thabo Mbeki get rid of Zuma as the country’s deputy president.
However, the Supreme Court of Appeal had in 2017 found the spy tape argument to be irrational.
Mbonani said only after Zuma and Thales had exhausted all avenues - Supreme Court of Appeal and Constitutional Court - will they be left with no choice.
“We cannot anticipate what will happen as we are not aware of what evidence the state has,” said Mbonani.
Despite organisers of Zuma’s supporters having promised that there would be a large crowd in front of the court, this was not the case.
Only some senior ANC members, including KwaZulu-Natal MPL Bishop Vusi Dube and the Msunduzi deputy mayor could be seen.
The stage where Zuma would be expected to address his supporters had been set by 7.30 am.
There was a large number of journalists who had travelled from all over the country to cover the court proceedings. Part of the busy Church Street in front of the court had been closed.