Jacob Zuma's last gasp? What you need to know about the former president's latest legal tussle

2019-05-20 05:51
Former president Jacob Zuma during an earlier court appearance. (Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24)

Former president Jacob Zuma during an earlier court appearance. (Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24)

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Former President Jacob Zuma will this week take the plunge in what will likely be his final opportunity to dodge a series of corruption charges he has successfully side-stepped for more than a decade.

Zuma is set to appear in the Pietermaritzburg High Court for four days this week when a full bench will hear his application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

If Zuma is successful he will be immune from these charges, which relate to alleged bribes paid to him by French arms company Thales – one of the successful contractors in the multi-billion rand Arms Deal.

Thales is accused number two, while Zuma’s name tops the charge sheet. If this week’s application is unsuccessful, Thales will face one count of money laundering, two counts of corruption and one count of racketeering.

Zuma will face 16 charges, including 12 counts of fraud, two counts of corruption and one count of racketeering and money laundering.

Zuma’s previous legal team filed a similar stay of prosecution application more than a decade ago, in 2005, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

Ever since, his lawyers employed a successful delay and postpone strategy, which in court papers both Zuma and Thales are now attempting to blame on prosecutors.

This time around, Thales was first out of the blocks with an application to stay prosecution, with Zuma’

ALSO READ: 'Thales believes it cannot obtain a fair trial' as it bids to have charges quashed

The Shaik Link

Thales representatives allegedly paid Zuma through his then financial advisor Schabir Shaik in exchange for his influence in securing its R2.6-billion stake in the deal.

Shaik was found guilty of fraud and corruption in June 2005 for irregularities surrounding the same matter, and sentenced to an effective 15 years behind bars.

12 days after the Durban High Court pronounced Shaik guilty, then president Thabo Mbeki fired Zuma as deputy president as a result of the overwhelming evidence that showed Zuma’s involvement.

Despite the charges hanging over his head, Zuma made a surging comeback at the 2007 ANC National Elective Conference, where he roundly beat Mbeki, securing the popular vote to become the president of the party.

He was served with an indictment to stand trial on the charges stemming from the Arms Deal corruption weeks after his victory.

In 2009, Zuma was sworn in as President of the Republic of South Africa, but the corruption charges (783 counts, famously) remained a dark cloud that shadowed him during his time in office.

The Arms Deal corruption was shifted out of the limelight every so often as new scandals broke over Zuma’s then newfound friends, the Gupta family, and upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.

Last Chance Saloon

It is however now or never for Jacob Zuma. His lawyers need to present convincing arguments and evidence that the case against Zuma should not go ahead.

Mounting legal costs, believed to be in excess of R30-million owed by Zuma, may hamper him from further delaying tactics.

Proceedings are set to start at 10:00, while Zuma fans will gather from early on Monday morning to show their support.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  pietermaritzburg  |  courts
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