State prosecutor, Advocate Wim Trengove has dismissed former president Jacob Zuma’s argument that delays in prosecution have severely damaged his reputation.

He was presenting the State’s case in the former president’s corruption trial underway in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. The case relates to the 1999 multi-billion rand arms deal, in which Zuma allegedly scored millions in bribe money from co-accused – French arms company, Thales.

Trengove says Zuma’s career thrived while awaiting a decision on his prosecution. He says damage to the former president’s honour was instead caused by his association with his former adviser, Schabir Shaik. Shaik was convicted to 15 years in jail for corruption and fraud in 2005, while a question mark on Zuma lingered as he was considered to have been his accomplice.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had said there was a prima facie case against him,  but decided not to prosecute. He was later charged and the charges were dropped in 2009. After much dilly dallying in 2018, then head of NPA, Shaun Abrahams decided to reinstate the charges against the former president.

Trengove says it would have been far greater if the NPA never charged Zuma. The State prosecutor says the prejudice Zuma’s legal team is arguing he suffered due to a 15-year delay in prosecution is one of the factors that the court needs to balance in considering the application.

“We must ask ourselves what reputational harm would he have suffered even if he was never prosecuted and I submit with respect the reputational harm would have been severe, because particularly his connection with Mr (Schabir) Shaik and the devastating judgments of the High Court, the SCA (Supreme Court of Appeal) and the Constitutional Court and that reputational harm is a product of the prosecution of Mr Shaik. It is not a product of the delay in the prosecution of Mr Zuma,” says Trengove.

Zuma and French arms company Thales are applying for a permanent stay of prosecution on 16 charges,  including corruption.

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