Former president Jacob Zuma has accused judges of arriving at an “unusual” judgement and “undermining” his rights when they made the ruling to dismiss his application for a permanent stay of prosecution.
Addressing scores of supporters outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court following the postponement of his criminal trial to February next year, Zuma said the decision taken by Judges Bhekisisa Mnguni, Thoba Poyo-Dlwati and Esther Steyn was “unusual” and “undermined” his right to a fair trial.
“When the judges came back with a ruling, they did not want to lay out too many arguments as to why they could not grant the application I sought. They were embarrassed to say how they had arrived at their decision and merely said a decision had been taken, that even though there were instances where my rights were undermined, after weighing the arguments out they deemed the crime I committed to be too grave making it acceptable that my rights be infringed upon”.
“What shocked us is that high court rulings are above all other rulings so this court could not arrive at such a decision... this is very unusual,” said Zuma to cheers from the large crowed that had gathered outside the court in articulation of the start of the former president’s criminal trial on Tuesday.
Zuma’s legal team, led by advocate Thabani Masuku, told the court their client would be appealing the dismissal of his application in line with the law which affords Zuma the right to appeal within 15 days of Friday’s judgement.
Judges Mnguni, Poyo-Dlwati and Steyn last week dismissed Zuma’s application, saying the “unreasonable delay” in prosecution – which Zuma has argued to be prejudicial to his cause – could not only be credited to the National Prosecution Authority but also the former president’s numerous court challenges.
As a result, the court dismissed Zuma’s application with costs, paving the way for him to face 16 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering relating to the arms deal.
It is alleged that Zuma received 783 payments, totalling just over R4 million, from his then financial adviser Schabir Shaik and his Nkobi group of companies between 1996 and 2005.
The criminal trial has since been postponed to February 4 2020 to make way for the appeal to be had before a full bench in November.
Although the state, through advocate Billy Downer, indicated that the National Prosecuting Authority would challenge the appeal, the state was in agreement with Zuma’s legal team that it would be best for all parties that proceedings only commence in February 4 2020.
“The appeal against last week’s application by Zuma can only be heard before a full bench and the earliest this can happen is November 22,” said Downer.
The two parties agreed on February 4 as a holding day for the pre-trial arguments, saying it would be favourable as all parties would by then know how far the appeal processes would have gone.
During his address outside the court, Zuma also made reference to the fact that some within his own organisation, the ANC, have now turned against him and called on those still in his corner to again gather in numbers when the case next appears.