Uncertainty over start of Zuma’s corruption case in Pietermaritzburg High Court

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It is still not clear if the over 15-year old fraud and corruption case against former President Jacob Zuma will finally go on trial at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

Zuma is accused of receiving bribes worth R4 million from the French arms company, Thales, which is also in the dock.

The case emanates from the country’s controversial arms deal.

In January, Thales application to challenge racketeering charges was dismissed:

15 years since…

It’s now over 15 years since Jacob Zuma was fired as the country’s deputy president by then-President Thabo Mbeki. He was fired in 2005, after his financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, was found guilty of soliciting bribes for him in the arms deal.

Former President Thabo Mbeki said, “In the interest of the honourable deputy president, the government, our young democratic system and our country, it would be best to release the honourable Jacob Zuma from his responsibilities as deputy president of the republic and member of the cabinet.”

Case struck off roll

But Zuma’s case has been on and off the court roll. In 2006, Judge Herbert Msimang struck it off the roll, saying the case has no basis. But, he was charged again in December 2007, just days after being elected ANC president.

The case took another twist in August 2008, when Judge Chris Nicholson ruled that Zuma’s case was unlawful on procedural grounds as he was not given a chance to make a presentation before he was charged. He also ruled that Zuma was the victim of political interference.

“I, therefore, grant the following orders. A – It is declared that the decision was taken by the NPA during or about 28 December 2007 to prosecute the applicant a copy of which is annexed to the applicant’s founding affidavit as Annexure A thereto is invalid and set aside.”

But in January 2009, the Supreme Court overturned the Nicholson Judgement, saying he overstepped his authority.

Spy tapes

In April of the same year after listening to the spy tapes, which captured a discussion of former Scorpions boss, Leonard McCarthy on the charging of Zuma, before his elections as ANC president.

Then Acting Head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Mokotedi Mpshe, dropped the charges against the former president saying the legal process was tainted.

“It’s not so much the prosecution itself is tainted but the legal process is tainted. Mr Carthy used the legal process for a purpose other than which the process is designed to serve that is for collateral and illicit purposes. Mr McCarthy’s conduct amounts to serious abuse of process and offends one’s sense of justice. What Mr McCarthy did was not only be over-diligent it was pure abuse of process it would be unjust and unfair to proceed with prosecution.”

But again in 2016 after a protracted legal process, the Pretoria High Court ruled that Mpshe’s decision to drop charges against Zuma was irrational.

VIDEO: Mpshe then acting NPA head, argued that former Scorpions boss tried to influence the outcome of the ANC’s 2007 elective conference, by serving an indictment to prosecute Zuma:

New charges

Again in 2016 after a protracted legal process – the Pretoria High Court ruled that Mpshe’s decision to drop charges against Zuma was irrational.

The new NPA Head Shaun Abrahams was ordered to re-indict Zuma and in March 2018 Abrahams confirmed new charges against the former President.

Abrahams explained, “After consideration of the matter, I am of the view that there is a reasonable prospect of a successful [trial] of Mr Zuma on the charges listed in the indictment served on Mr Zuma prior to the termination of the matter by Mpshe SC. As a result, Mr Zuma’s presentation is unsuccessful. The Director of Public Prosecution KZN will facilitate the necessary processes from Mr Zuma and his co-accused to appear in court.”

In 2018, Abrahams receives a memorandum on Zuma prosecution recommendations:

Zuma is facing 18 charges of corruption covering more than 700 counts of fraud and money laundering. It is still not clear if the trial will get under way but there is a high probability that again the matter will be postponed to a later date.