'I’ve always said I wanted my day in court' - Jacob Zuma
Johannesburg - Former president Jacob Zuma on Saturday reiterated his claim that he had always wanted “my day in court”.
“I’ve always said I wanted my day in court. It is (time for) South Africans to hear the truth. My silence has always been to keep unity, but it is now time,” he told Independent Media.
It remains unclear whether Zuma’s appearance at the Pietermaritzburg High Court will take place during level 4 of the nationwide lockdown. It had been planned for Wednesday. However, Zuma’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, said the matter had through agreement been postponed to June 23.
Yesterday, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng issued a directive to nine judge presidents on how court cases should be handled during lockdown. On criminal trials, which might affect Zuma’s case, Mogoeng said: “Criminal trials already set down for hearing during the national state of disaster period shall be dealt with and disposed of in a manner determined by the head of the court”.
Mogoeng’s spokesperson Nathi Mncube said the chief justice’s circular meant that all judge presidents would have to decide on their own directives.
“They can say all trials shall proceed or all trials shall not proceed,” said Mncube, who added he was not in a position to comment on the Pietermaritzburg High Court’s readiness to accommodate Zuma’s case.
He said the judge presidents were yesterday not in a position to decide as “I only sent them (these directives) now. They would anyway say they are going through these directives, so they are busy crafting their own (directives) so they won’t give you an answer”.
Asked about the reason for the postponement, Mabuza said: “Ask the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority).”
Mabuza added that neither Zuma nor his legal team would go to court on Wednesday. He said Zuma had made it clear he was ready to face his arms deal corruption charges.
“That is what he said many times in statements he had released. He is waiting to fight in the trial as he wants to go for the trial.” He said the team was waiting for the directive on whether Zuma would be appearing during lockdown.
However, a letter which Mabuza had written to the NPA on Friday, revealed that the State might not be ready for the pre-trial.
Mabuza said Zuma had been taken aback to learn that 15 years later the State was still gathering the evidence. “This literally means that despite what it previously communicated to our client and the public, the State is nowhere near ready for the trial.
“The fact that we have not been given all the evidence is gravely prejudicial against our client in that our client cannot finalise his request for further particulars let alone start preparing for the trial,” read his letter.
Since Zuma had last week withdrawn his application to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal against the lower courts, which had refused to grant him permanent stay of prosecution, he would now have to defend himself against 16 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering amounting to R4 million that occurred between1996 and 2005.
It had been reported his co-accused, French arms company Thales’ stay of prosecution claim was denied.
Zuma’s withdrawal of his permanent stay of prosecution application came shortly after he had fired his lawyer Daniel Mantsha.
The Jacob Zuma Foundation said Zuma was ready to prove that “he has never benefited from any Arms Deal corruption or tried to evade the trial”.
Zuma was to appear in court on Wednesday to explain his absence from court in February after Judge Dhaya Pillay had rejected his questionable sick note and instead issued a stayed warrant of arrest.
When contacted, NPA provincial spokesperson Natasha Kara said: “I am awaiting further directives from my management re court proceedings.”