Apartheid laws and conspiracies: 'You can't conspire to charge an innocent citizen like Zuma'

2019-05-21 06:15
Jacob Zuma

Jacob Zuma (Felix Dlangamandla)

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Former president Jacob Zuma on Monday took a swipe at the National Prosecuting Authority, saying prosecutors had been "ambitious" to charge him.

He told a group of supporters gathered outside the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg, who waited for hours to hear him speak, that the case against him was 15 years old, and he did not understand why it was still being pursued.

He compared the actions of prosecutors to Apartheid-era justice – echoing his lawyer advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC, who also drew parallels between Zuma's corruption case and Apartheid laws.

Zuma and French arms company Thales are asking the court for a permanent stay of prosecution which, if successful, would mean Zuma would be immune from the same charges in future.

"There was nothing to it today. It was the first day. The courts have decided on a four-day process," he told the sizeable crowd.

His son Duduzane Zuma, who is also facing charges of culpable homicide in the Randburg Magistrate's Court in Gauteng, was also present, in support of his father.

Another son Edward Zuma and other family members were also at court.

Sikhakhane's submissions to the court were wide-ranging, but in essence spoke to a broader conspiracy surrounding the charges against Zuma, and when he was and was not charged.

In court, he listed the following:

  • Evidence contained in the infamous "Browse Mole" report shows there was a clandestine effort to throw Zuma in jail;
  • Accused the NPA of meting out "mob justice" simply because Zuma was not liked;
  • Blamed the NPA for the delays in bringing the charges against Zuma;
  • Denied there was any effort on Zuma’s part to delay the case and not face the charges in court;
  • Asked the court to consider transcripts of the so-called Spy Tapes, which he said provide further evidence of political interference that led to Zuma being charged;
  • Sought to blame much of Zuma's woes on former NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka, but stopped short of calling Ngcuka's decision not to prosecute Zuma in 2003 malicious.

"You can't build a respectable case and in the other hand conspire to charge an innocent citizen like Zuma," the former president told his supporters late on Monday afternoon.

jacob zuma, court
Former president Jacob Zuma addresses supporters outside court in Pietermaritzburg on Monday. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

"It's been 15 years since I was charged. I'm sure the judges who took decisions on my trial are more than five. But the ones prosecuting me are hellbent on these charges. Judges continue to say the charges don't stick but they continue," he added, continuing a long-standing trend of judiciary-bashing.

"Even those who were meant to be witnesses have even forgotten their testimony. Some have died. We are now arguing that if this trial continues, it's just a witch hunt. We can't have a trial based on this. We argue this trial is not fresh and witnesses have died and the presiding judges have retired."

Zuma said his rights had been trampled on, and no trial had gone on for so long.

In court, Sikhakhane presented case law on previous applications for permanent stays of prosecution, and submitted the delays in Zuma's case were by far the longest.

The NPA was to blame for the delays, Sikhakhane said.

Earlier he argued Zuma should have been charged alongside Schabir Shaik in 2003. The court heard arguments from Zuma's legal team that he had essentially been tried in absentia, as he never had the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.

Zuma told the crowd: "They dropped prosecution at first because they never thought they would have a chance to succeed." 

"They imprisoned my friend and comrade to test if a prosecution against me would hold up in court."

Shaik was sentenced to an effective 15 years behind bars for his role in the alleged bribes paid to Zuma in the multi-billion rand Arms Deal saga.

"There are many arguments that were made. My lawyers asked why was it necessary for Zuma to go on trial. They say it was because we were going to Polokwane. It was to stop my presidency."

Zuma's trump card was played late in the proceedings on Monday.

Sikhakhane read transcripts of the so-called Spy Tapes into the record, arguing it showed a constitutional violation by the former head of the Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy and former prosecutions boss Ngcuka.

"It's clear that my case has two folds. The law and politics. The lawyers argued. It's not just a case of criminal behaviour. It's a conspiracy," Zuma said.

"There is no case against me and there never will be. They failed for 15 years to charge me and they can’t. It's clear this is politically motivated."

Zuma ended his 30-minute speech with a rousing chorus of "Umshini wam" - a song that has become synonymous with the former president.

The matter is set to continue on Tuesday, with arguments to be heard from advocate Anton Katz SC, who is representing Thales and thereafter, the State will have its say, represented by advocate Wim Trengrove SC.

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