Clarity on Zuma trial date

2008-05-13 00:00

A final date for the commencement of the trial of ANC president Jacob Zuma and his co-accused, Thint Holdings (Southern Africa) and Thint managing director Pierre Moynot, in Pietermaritzburg will be thrashed out with KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Vuka Tshabalala here tomorrow.

Judge Tshabalala yesterday did not discount the possibility that the trial will proceed as publicised on August 4, saying it depends on what agreement is reached between the prosecution and defence at tomorrow’s meeting.

Asked if he will now be able to appoint a judge to preside over the case (even though the judges’ duty roster is believed to have been finalised up to the end of December), Judge Tshabalala said he can.

Judge Tshabalala told The Witness yesterday it was inaccurately reported that he complained that he was “not consulted” by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) when they set the trial date for August 4 to December 12.

These are the dates on the indictment served on both the accused’s legal teams in December last year.

Judge Tshabalala said there is in fact no need for the prosecution to consult him when it sets a matter down for trial, and that he only becomes involved when it comes to sorting out the judges’ duty roster.

But Judge Tshabalala said Zuma’s trial is “special” in that it will take a long time, requiring a judge to be dedicated to it for several months. He does not wish to appoint a judge for such a long period only to discover that the case is not proceeding as scheduled.

Outlining recent correspondence over the issue, Judge Tshabalala said the NPA notified Zuma and his co-accused that the trial date was set for August 4. To his knowledge, Zuma’s team “never responded”, but lawyers representing Thint indicated that they disagreed.

The reason they gave was that issues such as the Constitutional Court ruling on search and seizure raids conducted by the Scorpions, and the outcome of an appeal to the Mauritian court in respect of documents required by the NPA for the case, are still outstanding.

Their stance appeared to be that these are matters that caused the case to be struck from the roll in 2006 (by Judge Herbert Msimang), and that the case should not go on until these issues are decided.

The NPA, on the other hand, appeared to be content to set the case down and indicated that they are prepared to request an amendment to their charge sheet if required in the wake of the rulings by the Constitutional Court and in Mauritius.

The accused face charges of racketeering, corruption, fraud and money laundering.

Sapa reports that NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali said the NPA has “on two occasions made our intention to prosecute clear”.

He said all parties have known of the proposed prosecution date since the indictment was filed on December 28, 2007.

On January 1, Tlali said the state was ready to proceed even earlier if necessary, and that any delays “are accordingly entirely in the hands of the defendant parties and their legal teams”.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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