There is uncertainty whether former president Jacob Zuma’s arms deal corruption trial, due to start in four weeks’ time, will proceed after his legal team quit on Wednesday.
Mabuza Attorneys filed the formal notice of withdrawal as Zuma’s attorneys in the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday indicating that they would no longer be representing him.
“Be pleased to take notice that Mabuza attorneys hereby withdraw as the attorneys on record for accused number 1 [Zuma],” reads the brief notice.
Attorney Eric Mabuza’s firm was appointed in April last year after Zuma fired Daniel Mantsha who had represented him since 2018.
While the notice did not provide reasons for quitting, City Press understands that the move effectively means that Zuma will
also lose the services of Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, who has been leading the defence of his corruption trial set down for May 17 in Pietermaritzburg.
The withdrawal comes a week after the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed Zuma’s appeal against a high court judgment that found that the state was not liable to pay for his legal costs.
Zuma was appealing a personal costs order by the Pretoria High Court in December 2018. It related to his failed bid to have former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report reviewed.
The report led to the establishment of the commission of inquiry into state capture chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
The appeals court upheld the ruling that Zuma was not entitled to state funding for his corruption trial, effectively ordering him to pay back about R25 million in taxpayers’ money already spent on the trial.
It’s unclear whether the legal team’s withdrawal was motivated by last week’s ruling, but in previous court appearances related to the arms deal corruption allegations, Sikhakhane said they had taken on the matter notwithstanding that Zuma could not afford to pay their legal costs.
After years of delays, Zuma’s arms deal-related corruption trial was finally set down for next month. He and French company Thales face corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges linked to the multimillion-rand arms deal.
Zuma may now ask for a postponement to allow him to find and brief new lawyers.