By Jeremy Gordin and Karyn Maughan
Former deputy president Jacob Zuma fathered a son, Edward, with Minah Shongwe, a sister of Jeremiah Shongwe, the Deputy Judge President of the Transvaal, 29 years ago.
It was Zuma's familial connection with Judge Shongwe that Zuma's defence team apparently raised with Judge President Bernard Ngoepe on Monday afternoon after the judge president had recused himself from Zuma's rape trial.
The defence would apparently have raised the issue in court and sought Judge Shongwe's recusal if he had been appointed as the trial judge.
During his recusal judgment, the Judge President, apparently unaware at that stage of Judge Shongwe's connection with Zuma, had said that judges for a high-profile case such as Zuma's were chosen according to seniority.
He went on to say that, since the senior Deputy Judge President of the Transvaal, Phineas Mojapelo, was unavailable for the trial, the job would fall to Judge Shongwe.
However, after a meeting between the judge president and members of the prosecution and defence in chambers on Tuesday morning, Judge Ezra Goldstein entered court and postponed the rape trial until March 6.
The judge president said on Tuesday night that he wished to stress that no judge had yet been appointed to the trial and that the trial had been postponed at the request of the defence.
"Mention of Judge Shongwe (during Judge Ngoepe's recusal judgment) was an indication of a strong likelihood," said Judge Ngoepe.
"The matter has now been postponed for three weeks. This has created the potential for the availability (to try the case) of those judges who might now not be available, and also for those now not available but who could be available in March. It would, therefore, be premature to focus on Judge Shongwe or any other judge at this stage."
Neither Judge Shongwe nor Zuma was available for comment on Tuesday night.
Zuma is on trial for allegedly raping a 31-year-old family friend at his Forest Town home in Johannesburg on the night of November 2/3.
According to the state, before the alleged rape Zuma had gone to the room of the complainant and offered her a massage.
After she declined his offer, Zuma had allegedly removed the duvet covering her and proceeded to have sexual intercourse with her against her will and without her consent.
Zuma's attorney, Michael Hulley, said on Tuesday night that "we neither confirm nor deny what has been said about Judge Shongwe".
"Given that a judge has not been appointed to hear this trial, we would consider it improper to do so.
"We would, however, like to lay to rest once and for all the perception that has been created that we have been trying to pick and choose a judge. We have the greatest respect for the independence of the judiciary and the integrity of judicial officers in particular."
Zuma's son by Minah Shongwe, Edward, is very much part of the Zuma clan's life and regularly attends family functions.
Stressing that Zuma had never sought to keep the existence of his son a secret, a source close to the family also explained that the identity of the young man's mother had not come under discussion because cultural beliefs dictated that it was "not an issue".
"In Zulu culture, the identity of the child's mother is not considered as significant as that of the child's father. The only time you would track the child's mother down would be if you had a specific reason to do so," he said, revealing that he personally had not been aware that Edward's mother was related to Judge Shongwe.
"He has always been just one of the youngsters," he said.
After Tuesday's court hearing, which lasted only a few minutes, during which Judge Goldstein postponed the case to March 6, bemused members of the public and media asked one another what was happening in the Zuma trial.
This followed Judge Ngoepe's recusal on Monday afternoon when he said that, though he did not agree with the defence contention that he had a bias against Zuma as a result of having authorised search warrants in August, he realised that Zuma would never really believe that he did not.
He then said that, in terms of his division's operating procedure, the duty of the trial judge would fall to Judge Shongwe.
The court on Tuesday waited for over an hour for Zuma's case to be heard.
The state and defence's legal teams arrived at court at 10.24am, following their consultation with the Judge President. Judge Goldstein only appeared at 11.10am.
State advocate Charin de Beer spoke animatedly on her cellphone and tapped the podium in front of her, while a smiling and a relaxed Zuma chatted to his lawyers and family members.