Former President Jacob Zuma will return to the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday for what is said to be the start of his corruption trial.
Zuma will most likely seek a postponement in order to get a new legal team after parting ways with his lawyers in April.
Zuma and his co-accused French arms manufacturer Thales face multiple charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering in connection with South Africa’s multi-billion rand arms deal of the 1990s.
The video below is reporting on Zuma trial:
Zuma maintained innocence
Zuma has maintained his innocence from the beginning. He has also claimed that the corruption case against him was nothing but a witch hunt and a campaign by his political adversaries to see him imprisoned.
The former President was first charged in 2005, days after his former financial advisor Schabir Shaik was found guilty of soliciting bribes from Thales on behalf of Zuma.
The case involved 783 questionable payments Zuma is alleged to have received from Thales in connection with the arms deal.
But for years, Zuma managed to evade trial. In 2018, charges against Zuma and Thales were reinstated by the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Shaun Abrahams.
From the onset, the State led by Advocate Billy Downer stated they were ready for trial.
Several postponements followed as parties went back and forth on pre-trial matters.
In 2019, Jacob Zuma and his co-accused filed an application for a permanent stay of prosecution.
In his argument, he cited delays, pre-trial irregularities and the fact that he strongly believed he was the target of his political opponents.
Based on these factors, Zuma argued that his constitutional rights had been violated and that he wouldn’t get a fair trial.
Thales wanted the decision to reinstate charges against them reviewed.
The matter, which was heard by a full bench, was dismissed, dealing Zuma a major blow.
Review applications to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), and Constitutional Court were also unsuccessful.
Thales application to challenge racketeering charges dismissed:
Zuma’s legal team quits
In April 2020, after firing his attorney of two years, Daniel Mantsha, Zuma announced he would be preparing for what was described as the biggest trial of his life.
Eric Mabuza replaced Mantsha as his lawyer.
The COVID-19 pandemic that hit the country resulted in further delays.
Zuma’s case was postponed several times as pre-trial issues needed to be resolved.
Jacob Zuma corruption case back in court:
Over 200 witnesses
The travel ban imposed by the government meant witnesses wouldn’t be able to attend the trial. Despite Zuma’s legal team having pushed for the trial date to be set in October 2020, it was in February this year that the court finally announced a trial date.
Both the State and defence finally ready for the long-awaited trial to start on May 17.
Over 200 witnesses are set to take the stand. However, just weeks before the trial, a surprise announcement from Zuma’s defence, that his lawyer, Mabuza and senior counsel Muzi Sikhakane had called it quits, but no reasons were furnished.
Legal experts say the matter will most likely be postponed to allow Zuma time to appoint a new legal team.
After more than 15 years of legal battles, it again remains unclear when Zuma will finally get his day in court.
Trial set to start on 17 May 2021