Zuma’s beef with judges

2019-11-21 16:25
Former president Jacob Zuma.

Former president Jacob Zuma.

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As Pietermaritzburg prepares itself for the next instalment in former president Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial, the state has rejected his defence team’s claim that three judges should not have heard his stay of prosecution application.

The case returns to the city’s high court tomorrow when the prosecution and defence will butt heads over whether Zuma should be granted leave to appeal the verdict delivered by judges Jerome Mnguni, Esther Steyn and Thoba Poyo-Dlwati on October 11. The judges rejected Zuma’s stance that a stay of prosecution was wararanted.

They found in their judgment that the seriousness of the offences that Zuma is facing outweighs any prejudice he claims he will suffer if the trial proceeds. In papers filed ahead of tomorrow’s application for leave to appeal, the state rejected Zuma’s lawyers’ objections to the matter having been heard by a full bench of three judges.

They said the objection is out of order and without merit.

Zuma is charged along with French arms company Thales on one count of racketeering, 12 of fraud, four of corruption and one of money laundering. Thales’ stay of prosecution application was also denied.

The state said in its papers that when Zuma’s attorney brought up the issue of a full bench hearing the stay of prosecution application, Judge Mnguni informed him that this is not a matter that could be dealt with by a single judge. The attorney did not subsequently persist with his complaint.

Zuma’s argument now is that a full bench had no jurisdiction to hear and determine such an application.

The state said the objection is based on the incorrect premise that Zuma’s trial has started. “It will only start when he is called upon to plead and when he does so. It has not,” said the state.

Also, the composition of the court was the discretion of the head of the KZN division of the high court.

The state has slammed the language used by Zuma’s legal team in the application for leave to appeal. The state said Zuma’s notice of application for leave to appeal is “regrettably marred by disrespectful and intemperate language and allegations directed at the full bench which do not belong in a proper court process”.

“We respectfully submit, that, as a mark of its displeasure this court should order Mr Zuma to pay the costs of this application on the attorney-and-client scale, regardless of the outcome,” said the state.

The state has argued that Zuma’s leave to appeal application should be dismissed on every ground. “Mr Zuma has not shown with any measure of certainty that the Supreme Court of Appeal will differ from this court on any of the intended grounds of appeal.”

At the heart of Zuma’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution is his allegation that due to an unreasonable delay in the commencement of the proceedings, he can’t receive a fair trial, said the state.

However, it added that the criminal trial court is empowered to deal with any trial-related prejudice issues which might arise during the course of the trial.

Its decisions on those issues may be appealed at the end of the trial if the accused are convicted. An appeal at this stage would not be in the interest of justice.

Zuma, in his argument, said that the full bench ruling was biased and aimed at assisting the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in violating his constitutional rights.

He said the evidence of constitutional violations by the NPA, which the court failed to accord to, included the fact that its unreasonable delay in charging him was prejudicial and he could not be held jointly liable for the “unreasonable delay”.

He also said the court failed to accord appropriate weight to the NPA’s “unlawful” actions in naming Zuma as Schabir Shaik’s co-conspirator, adding the court’s choice of trial proxy against him and other due process violations constituted an abuse of process and a violation of his right to be presumed innocent. “The court failed to have regard to the fact that the NPA was, for a period of over 15 years, always advised by its own experts of their unlawful conduct in the handling of Mr Zuma’s prosecution.”

Zuma also said the court had “erroneously” concerned itself with irrelevant factual considerations, ignoring those that were relevant in assessing whether the NPA’s conduct in the case justified a permanent stay of prosecution. “Instead, the judgment commences with a concession made in another hearing. This constitutes a misdirection by the high court,” the papers read.

The papers also outline that the court “erred” in finding that Zuma had a shared responsibility with the NPA on the issues of the delays in the case.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  jacob zuma
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