Jacob Zuma in the dock in the Durban High Court to face 16 charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering relating to 783 payments he allegedly received in connection with the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal. Picture: EPA-EFE/Nic Bothma
Durban - His supporters cheered as the man they regard as their leader arrived at the Durban High Court on Friday. Jacob Zuma put up a brave front by smiling back.

But sitting alone in the dock in Court A waiting for Judge Themba Sishi to start the proceedings, Zuma visibly appeared tense.

He fiddled with his hands on his lap, bowed his head and even clasped his hands to his face.

Exactly nine years after charges were dropped against him, Zuma was back in court on Friday. While it was short and sweet, barely 15 minutes before the proceedings were postponed to June 8, it appeared that Zuma realised that this time around it might be a long drawn-out battle.

As the crowds gathered outside waiting for him to arrive, several of his guards had already positioned themselves in and around the dock.

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Sniffer dogs were brought into the courtroom at about 7 am and even media vans parked directly next to the court were checked.

The public and the media were allowed inside the court at about 9 am, and among the Zuma supporters taking their seats in the public gallery were former minister Des van Rooyen and disgraced erstwhile SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng. KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu was also there.

As the man himself walked in at 9.25am, he was greeted by supporters in the packed gallery, chanting his name. Dressed in a dark suite, white shirt and red tie, Zuma gave them a slight wave before taking his seat.

The judge entered.

Zuma did not take much notice of his co-accused, Madame Christene Guerrier, from Paris. She will represent Thales, the French company which is facing criminal charges alongside Zuma. But when the court adjourned, Zuma exchanged a few pleasantries with Madame Guerrier, who had a fearful expression on her face throughout the short proceedings.

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Veteran advocate Billy Downer, the man who brought down Shabir Shaik, stood up and told the judge that this was in essence a continuation of the 2009 court roll, when the matter against Zuma was withdrawn.

Downer said that as a result of this year's Supreme Court of Appeal judgment of Zuma vs the NDPP and DA, the matter was re-enrolled.

He said Zuma came before court by way of summons and he was thus properly before court. “The State is ready to proceed with the trial, but first the State must give the defence a copy of the docket and further particulars. This will be done shortly,” Downer said.

He told the judge the trial could start on November 12, as there was space on the criminal roll from then.

Downer said the matter would, by agreement with the defence, be postponed to June 8, as they were informed that Zuma first wanted to bring review proceedings to set aside his prosecution.

Zuma will be defended by ace senior advocate Kemp J Kemp, who has been his confidant and legal counsel for many years. Kemp was not at court on Friday, but Zuma was represented by advocate Gani Hussein for purposes of his first appearance.

Hussein confirmed they would launch their review proceedings by May 15. He said the defence would be in a better position by June 8 to map the way forward.

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Advocate Anton Katz SC, who appeared for Thales, said the French company would make representations to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions regarding the charges it was facing. He said they will do it as soon as possible and they hope to have answers in this regard by June 8.

Downer told the court that another group, calling itself “SA Native Forum”, had also applied to the Western Cape High Court “to interfere with the trial”, but he said that matter would not have any influence on this case. It is understood that the forum also wants charges dropped against Zuma.

Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, said he was not sure where they would launch their review application - in Durban or Pretoria - but he gave the assurance it would go ahead. Zuma also first wants clarity on who will foot his legal bill, especially in light of the DA’s pending application that he had to pay personally. But the review application could drag out his criminal trial and the matter may even eventually end up in the Constitutional Court.

The Zuma camp wants the court to review the decision taken by NPA boss Shaun Abrahams to reinstate the charges against him. Zuma was not happy with the reasons given to him by Abrahams in this regard.

Zuma is facing 16 charges, which include 12 counts of fraud, one count of racketeering and two counts of corruption. He is accused of taking bribes from French arms maker Thales during his time as provincial economy minister and then deputy ANC president.

Pretoria News