The KwaZulu-Natal division of the South African High Court in Pietermaritzburg has dismissed with costs the application for a permanent stay of prosecution by former president Jacob Zuma and French arms company Thales.
This application by the two co-accused was filed in May when they appeared before the high court facing fraud, money laundering, corruption and racketeering charges linked to 783 payments that the French company allegedly made to Zuma in connection with the infamous arms deal of 1999.
Zuma’s legal team argued that they had been a “unreasonable delay by the National Prosecuting Authority” in prosecuting the matter seeing that 15 years had passed since his one-time financial adviser Schabir Shaik and co-accused was found guilty and convicted on similar charges.
According to Zuma’s senior counsel, Muzi Sikhakhane, prosecuting Shaik and then coming after his client was a trial-and-error approach by the national prosecutor.
The defence also argued that there was immense political interference in the matter which met his client could not be afforded a fair trial.
Zuma’s defence team waited until the last minute to play their trump card before the full bench of judges.
In his dramatic closing submissions Sikhakhane tore through the submissions made by the state and seized the moment to attempt to introduce new evidence in the form of a letter, which he argued proved political interference in Zuma’s charges.
It remained unclear whether the letter legitimised prior claims made by his client in 2015, when he effectively accused his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, of blackmailing him and dangling a R20-million bribe in his face in an attempt at getting him to quit politics back in 2003.
Zuma’s co-accused French arms company Thales in their application for a permanent stay of prosecution also argued that there had been an unreasonable delay in the prosecution and the company being charged along with Zuma was a “knee-jerk reaction by the NPA” to just lump similar charges faced by Zuma on them.
Advocate Wim Trengrove, representing the state, however, made an impassioned plea that both the NPA and Jacob Zuma’s legal team should shoulder the blame for the almost 15-year-long delay in prosecutions and that criminal proceedings should commence as scheduled for October 15.
Judges Bhekisisa Mnguni, Thoba Poyo-Dlwati and Ester Steyn ruled against Zuma and Thales and dismissed the application with costs.
The two will now appear before the same court on Tuesday when the criminal trial is set to commence.
Zuma is also set to continue is testimony before the Zondo commission either on October 21 to 25 just a week after his criminal trial or on November 11 to 15.