Former President Jacob Zuma and his co-accused, the French arms company Thales, are due back in court on Tuesday for pre-trial proceedings. The case was initially set down for May but postponed after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A stayed warrant of arrest is still hanging over Zuma’s head after he failed to appear in court in February due to ill-health.
Zuma has recently indicated that he is ready for what he calls the biggest trial of his life.
It is expected that the Pietermaritzburg will hear submissions from the state and defence teams on Tuesday on setting down a trial date. This after the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed an application for leave to appeal by Zuma for a permanent stay of prosecution.
A similar application to the Constitutional Court by Zuma’s co-accused, French arms company Thales, has also been dismissed.
The matter was last heard in February, when Zuma failed to appear, citing illness:
Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering that is linked to South Africa’s 1999 multi-billion rand arms deal package.
Thales is facing two charges.
Zuma indicated in recent months that he is preparing to go to trial rather than lodging an application for leave to appeal in the Constitutional Court.
With this aim in mind, Zuma parted ways with his attorney Daniel Mantsha and replaced him with Eric Mabuza. In the run-up to the pre-trial hearing, Zuma’s lawyer took a swipe at the National Prosecuting Authority and KwaZulu-Natal Judge President, Achmat Jappie, over an exchange of e-mails with the NPA without the knowledge of Zuma’s lawyer.
This, after Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Billy Downer, wrote a letter to Judge Jappie, proposing Zuma’s trial to begin next year.
Zuma’s lawyer Eric Mabuza said discussions between Downer and Judge Jappie were secret and inappropriate. The NPA responded by saying there was nothing sinister about the communication.
It would seem Zuma’s team favours a trial date in October, while the state proposes that it only start next year.
As the COVID-19, restrictions on public gatherings are still in place, it remains to be seen whether Zuma’s supporters will gather outside the court as in the past.
In the video below, Zuma supporters vow to support Zuma till the end: