The corruption case against former president Jacob Zuma and his co-accused, Christine Guerrier of French company Thales, has been postponed to July 27 and will now be heard in the Pietermaritzburg division of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court.
It was yet another brief appearance for the two accused who appeared before the high court in Durban on Friday morning, as both the prosecution and the defence consented to the matter being postponed in order to resolve Zuma’s contentious legal fees conundrum, while the state considered Thales’ representation.
Advocate Billy Downer, representing the state, reiterated that the prosecution was ready for trial as it had mentioned in the last court appearance.
However, the defence had requested that the matter be moved to a later date so as to sort out the pending North Gauteng High Court application which was brought by the Democratic Alliance for the former president to pay his own legal fees.
The state is currently funding Zuma’s legal battle pending the decision by the North Gauteng High Court.
In March, Zuma’s legal team said it would seek a review of National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams’ decision that there was no reason for him not to stand trial on 16 charges of corruption.
Zuma’s legal team was supposed to make representations to the NPA by May 15, but failed to do so.
On Friday, Downer said Zuma’s request for a review application was one of the reasons why the matter was postponed in March and his team had not even acted on that request.
Leading the defence for Zuma, advocate Michael Hulley said they were currently busy trying to get the state to fund Zuma’s trial.
NPA head Shaun Abrahams had refused Zuma’s request for a stay of prosecution pending the legal battle of who will fund it.
Meanwhile, a large contingent of supporters came out to support Zuma led by ANC North West chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, Des van Rooyen, Andile Lungisa, Andile Mgxitama, Faith Muthambi, Carl Niehaus and Hlaudi Motsoeneng
The charges through twists and turns
Zuma’s charges include fraud‚ corruption and racketeering while his co-accused in the case, arms deal manufacturer Thales, is facing two charges, in total the case is an 18-charge indictment.
These charges relate to the alleged 783 questionable payments received by Zuma which were facilitated by his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik.
It is alleged that the payments received were meant as a bribe to protect Thales from an investigation into the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal.
Zuma’s charges were initially withdrawn in 2009 by then NPA head Mokotedi Mpshe, who decided not to prosecute Zuma after transcripts of telephone conversations between then Scorpions boss, Leonard McCarthy and former NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka surfaced.
The telephonic transcripts was, according to Mpshe, ‘a display of political interference’ in the decision to charge Zuma.
In yet another twist, Zuma’s own legal representative, Advocate Kemp J Kemp, made an about-turn at the Supreme Court of Appeal in October 2017 and argued that he believed that the NPA had erred in its decision to drop the charges against his client.
This led to the reinstatement of one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud against Zuma.
Judge Mjabuliseni Madondo agreed with Friday’s request for a postponement by the two parties and added that the matter would be heard at the Pietermaritzburg High Court because it was a “bigger and more suitable venue for such a high profile case”.