Legal expert doubts Zuma, Thales case will start

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Legal expert Doctor Mkhuseli Vimba says he doubts that former President Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial will get under way on Monday.

Zuma and his co-accused French arms company, Thales, are facing charges in connection with South Africa’s multi-billion rand arms deal in the 1990s.

The Pietermaritzburg High Court declared the case trial-ready in February and set May 17, 2020 as the trial date.

Zuma’s legal team, however, withdrew from the case last month.

Vimba believes it might take up to six months for a new legal team to familiarise themselves with the case.

Vimba says, “What is likely to happen is the postponement of the matter, but because of the complexity of the matters it is unlikely that the (former) president can represent himself. My thinking is that it won’t take less than six months to go through the documents or even more…”

“Remember we are talking about volumes and volumes of forensic evidence that need to be interpreted. That they need to go through and need to consult witnesses as well,” added Vimba.

Zuma corruption case back in court:

Supporters of the former president, including suspended ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule, are expected to attend Zuma’s court proceedings at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

Tony Yengeni and Andile Lungiswa of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality are also expected to attend.

It’s not yet clear whether Magashule will address ANC members who are also expected outside of the court, for his suspension letter states that he can’t engage in any ANC-related events.

Meanwhile, the KwaZulu Natal Provincial Executive Committee has deployed provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala to go and support Zuma.

Today’s court appearance is said to be a deciding factor on how the ANC will be in the next few months. Factions continue to be the order of the day, with some saying Zuma is being targeted for his ideology when it comes to Radical Economic Transformation in the country.

But the ANC National Executive Committee has guarded against those who will use this court appearance as an opportunity to further see divisions in the ANC.

Analysis of Zuma, Thales case

Reasons for postponements

The matter had previously been postponed mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pending applications by the accused. These included Thales’s application for a review of the racketeering charge and the company’s request for further particulars on the charges.

In October, Thales had brought an application challenging the racketeering charge against them. However, the company’s application was dismissed last month. The company decided that it will not appeal the judgment.

Zuma-Thales Corruption Trial | After many delays, trial set to start on the 17 May 2021

Zuma’s charges

Zuma is facing 16 charges, which include 783 payments Thales allegedly made to him.

Zuma’s convicted former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, allegedly solicited bribes on behalf of Zuma from Thint, as Thales was known at the time.

Additional reporting: Abongile Dumako