French arms firm to appeal Zuma corruption charge ruling

Former president Jacob Zuma in court. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)
Former president Jacob Zuma in court. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

French defence firm Thales said today that it would ask the Constitutional Court for permission to appeal an October ruling dismissing its request to have charges that it bribed former president Jacob Zuma permanently dropped.

Thales is accused of agreeing to pay Zuma R500 000 a year for protection from an investigation into a $2 billion arms deal in 1999.

The charges against Thales and Zuma were originally filed a decade ago, but were set aside by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), paving the way for Zuma to successfully run for president in 2009.

The charges were reinstated in March last year by the NPA, following appeals and lobbying by opposition parties and local anti-corruption groups.

In mid-October, the Pietermaritzburg High Court dismissed an application by Zuma and Thales for a permanent stay of prosecution and set a provisional trial date ofFebruary 4 2020.

“Thales confirms that on November 1 2019 it applied to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal the high court’s decision which dismissed its challenge to the lawfulness of the decision to reinstate charges against it,” the firm said in a statement.

Zuma has also said he will appeal the decision, meaning the trial will likely begin late next year.

Thales’ local public relations firm did not immediately reply to an email sent by Reuters seeking details of the argument it would make in the appeal application.

Thales, known as Thomson-CSF in 1999, has consistently argued that it has no knowledge of any transgressions having been committed by any of its employees in relation to the awarding of the contract.

Criminal trial

Zuma’s criminal trial involving Thales was set to commence in the Pietermaritzburg High Court last month.

Zuma had applied for a permanent stay of prosecution, which was denied.

The postponement came after the former president’s legal team said it would be appealing the dismissal of Zuma’s application. The former president is facing 16 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering relating to the arms deal.

It is alleged that he received 783 payments, totalling just more than R4 million from his then financial adviser Schabir Shaik and his Nkobi group of companies between 1996 and 2005.

State capture

Meanwhile, Zuma will appear before the Zondo commission next week. According to the commission, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the former president is set to appear for cross-examination from November 11 to 15.

The former president made explosive claims when he previously appeared before the commission in July.

Zuma said that Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association council chairperson Siphiwe Nyanda and former Limpopo premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi were spies.

Both men hit back, with Ramatlhodi challenging Zuma to a lie detector test and Nyanda saying he would consider cross-examining Zuma at the commission.

Hanekom tweet

Zuma has also applied for leave to appeal a court ruling regarding a tweet in which he called former tourism minister Derek Hanekom an “agent of the enemy”.

According to a court ruling by Judge Dhaya Pillay, this tweet was “false and defamatory”.

Read: Zuma seeks to defend ‘false, defamatory’ Hanekom tweet ruling

Hanekom confirmed that Zuma had applied for leave to appeal. The application will be heard on Tuesday. Hanekom also claimed R500 000 in damages, but an oral hearing has yet to take place to determine the amount of damages, should the appeal fail.

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