3 ways Zuma could still try to postpone justice in his corruption case

2018-06-05 13:36
Jacob Zuma in court. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

Jacob Zuma in court. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

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On appearing in the Durban High Court in March, former president Jacob Zuma's legal team said he will seek a review of National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams' decision that there was no reason for him not to stand trial on 16 corruption charges.

Zuma was supposed to make representations to the NPA on this by May 15, but failed to do so. After this, his lawyers requested the stay of his prosecution pending the resolution of issues around legal fees.

On Tuesday, Abrahams turned down Zuma's request for more time. 

"Legally, no person has the right to have the NPA review its decision to prosecute them. According to section 179(5) of the Constitution, the NDPP 'may' grant a review, but this is not a given," Casac's Lawson Naidoo said.

He added that he found it concerning that the State prosecutor in the case, advocate Billy Downer, would entertain this request. Downer said in March that the State was willing to postpone the matter to June 8 to allow Zuma time to manage his review application. 

"Any issues now should be raised in the trial court. Let the court decide. It must operate on the basis of what exists before it, and can't be held to ransom. I think the court must step in and say, enough is enough. It is an abuse of the legal process," Naidoo said. 

Despite the State indicating that it was ready to proceed with its case against the former president at the earliest available date (November 12), several factors could see Zuma's prosecution being dragged out for years.

Here are three more ways Zuma could try to postpone justice in his corruption case.

1. Zuma wants to apply for a permanent stay of prosecution 

If his application to review the NPA's decision to prosecute him is unsuccessful, Zuma wants to apply to the court for a permanent stay of prosecution. This will likely be on grounds that, due to the time that's lapsed since the charges against him were initially brought, there is prejudice against him. 

"The problem is, he has been the architect of those delays," Naidoo said. "It would be self-serving to say that the delays will cause prejudice against him, because he created the delays. It is clearly a continuation of his Stalingrad approach. He tries one thing and if that doesn't work, he tries the next. But his strategy is highly contradictory."

2. Zuma could run out of money 

The Presidency said previously that it would abide by any future ruling of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on the government's provision of legal assistance to Zuma. The DA filed papers in the High Court in late March, asking it to set aside a 2006 agreement the Presidency had signed regarding legal costs the former president incurred for his criminal prosecution.

This was after President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that the agreement, signed by Zuma under then president Thabo Mbeki, formed the basis for the decision to continue paying for Zuma's legal fees in the "spy tapes" matter.

If the High Court sets aside the agreement, it could affect Zuma's defence strategy.

"The issue of legal fees is of critical importance. If someone's got a blank cheque, they will appeal and appeal. But for ordinary people who don't have endless funds, this isn't possible. If you do not have resources, you have to accept the judgment, especially if your legal counsel tells you there's little chance of an appeal being successful," Naidoo said. 

3. Appeal upon appeal?

Regardless of funding, there is the possibility that Zuma might appeal any judgment against him right up to the highest court in the land. Should he ultimately be found guilty by the Durban High Court on the 16 charges of corruption, he will likely appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court of Appeal, and should that appeal fail and his legal team is able to find grounds to do so, he will also appeal to the Constitutional Court. This process could drag on for years.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  zuma corruption trial  |  justice  |  corruption

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