File picture Leon Lestrade/African News Agency/ANA

DURBAN – The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the defence teams of former president Jacob Zuma and French arms manufacturer Thales are expected on Friday to settle on a date to argue whether the high stakes fraud and corruption trial should begin.

KwaZulu-Natal NPA spokesperson Natasha Kara on Thursday, confirmed a date would be set at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in order for the legal teams to argue for and against a permanent stay of prosecution.

“The date is going to be set for the representations to be argued. I don’t expect the proceedings to be particularly long unless another issue arises,” said Kara.

The trial, which is yet to begin, is linked to the controversial R60-billion defence force arms deal concluded in 1999, which saw several multi-national companies around the world providing technology and equipment. 

It is alleged that Thales paid bribes to Zuma -- via Zuma’s then financial adviser Schabir Shaik -- in order to protect the company from a probe into the arms deal, in which Thales had secured a lucrative R2.6-billion contract to supply combat systems for the South African navy.

It is claimed that Thales paid Zuma -- who was deputy president of the country at the time -- R500,000 a year for political cover.

Zuma and Thales have asked the court to stop the prosecution and filed their written representations for a stay of prosecution earlier this month.

In Zuma’s affidavit, he said his prosecution had “all the attributes of a case that should be stayed permanently”.

“The delays have been extremely long, the pre-trial irregularities glaring, the prejudice to me is blatant, there are no victims or complainants and the political interference in the prosecution passes as other circumstances or factors the court should take into account,” said the affidavit. 

In the affidavit submitted by Thales, company lawyer Christine Guerrier said the decision to reinstate the charges against the company was “unlawful” and that Thales “rights to a fair trial have been violated”. 

The company has cited the long delay as an overriding factor and that the “employees involved in the events underpinning the charges are not available to provide [the company] with instructions…to assist [Thales] in presenting its defence at trial”.

Zuma is accused number one and is facing one count of racketeering; two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud for allegedly receiving bribe money from Thales via Shaik.

Thales is accused number two and is facing one count of racketeering; two counts of corruption and one count of money laundering. 

Last year the Supreme Court confirmed a High Court decision that former NPA head Mokotedi Mpshe erred when he decided to drop the same corruption charges against Zuma in 2009.  

African News Agency (ANA)