‘They’re out to get me’

2019-05-21 16:40
A supporter for former president Jacob Zuma holds up a replica firearm outside the Pietermaritzburg high court on Monday. Zuma appeared at the high court facing charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering.

A supporter for former president Jacob Zuma holds up a replica firearm outside the Pietermaritzburg high court on Monday. Zuma appeared at the high court facing charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering. (AP)

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How will the stigma around former president Jacob Zuma be cleared if his application to stay his prosecution is granted?

This question was asked of Zuma’s advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, SC, on Monday by Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati — who is presiding over Zuma’s hearing in Pietermaritzburg, sitting along with judges Esther Steyn and Jerome Mnguni. Sikhakhane responded, “your order condemning unconstitutional conduct towards him will in some way deal with the stigma”.

He also said that in the eyes of many, because of all the alleged violations, Zuma’s name will always be synonymous with certain crimes or allegations.

Those who violated Zuma’s rights would have learnt their lesson and his rights will be protected, he said.

Zuma and French company Thales face charges of fraud, corruption, racketeering and money-laundering related to the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal finalised in 1999.

Zuma on Monday sat in a comfortable chair along with his legal team, instead of on the hard court bench. The public gallery in the Pietermaritzburg high court was not packed to capacity as it had been during his court appearances last year. After the lunch break, there were fewer supporters in the gallery.

Sikhakhane started the day with a history lesson, taking the court to the day it was decided that Zuma should be prosecuted, August 23, 2003.

He said the “genesis of this case is the arms deals” when certain allegations were made in Parliament.

One of the first tasks of Scorpions head at the time, Leonard McCarthy, was to investigate these allegations.

French arms company Thomson (now Thales) and Zuma were investigated. Zuma was written as “Mr X”, the only one who was not mentioned. It was a “clandestine operation”, he said.

“The intention was to nail Mr Zuma unlawfully,” he said.

The three judges interjected whenever they needed clarity, had a question, disagreed or required more of an explanation.

Sikhakhane said there was a conspiracy against Zuma, which included prosecutors — particularly Bulelani Ngcuka, who was then the NPA boss. He criticised the state for not prosecuting Zuma along with his financial adviser Schabir Shaik who ended up being sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment on corruption charges. This related to Shaik’s involvement in the arms deal.

Said Sikhakhane, “Zuma’s absence in the Shaik trial amounts to trying him in his absence.”

Another argument was that there has been a long delay in Zuma’s trial. Sikhakhane said there are cases where a permanent stay of prosecution was granted because a case dragged on for five years. Zuma’s case is 15 years old. Judge Steyn commented that the length of the delay was one of the factors that needed to be considered. After some conversing, Sikhakhane agreed that length was “a factor, not the factor”.

He has blamed the state for the delays in the case. Sikhakhane read extracts from the “spy tapes” to the court, saying he wants the court to know the “type of people we are talking about, and their conduct, and how they saw themselves in executing their powers”.

He read out excerpts from a conversation between McCarthy and Ngcuka on November 9, 2007, where they discussed judges, using profanities.

The transcripts included parts where the men talked about making sure people voted against Zuma.

Sikhakhane said the conversations showed how the organs of state acted unconstitutionally. He said that if the court finds against Zuma on all the issues, then the court should look at all the violations in the case. “I am not desperate to win, I am desperate to hear how acting unconstitutionality is not exceptional,” he said.

He also spoke about the stigma attached to Zuma ever since the Shaik trial. Ngcuka labelled Zuma “prima facie corrupt”. Since then Zuma has a stigma attached to him, he said.

Sikhakhane also accused the state of using a form of “mob justice” against Zuma by “doing what they like” with him. He accused the state of “prosecutorial misconduct” and “unlawful and unconstitutional acts”.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  zuma corruption trial
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