KwaZulu-Natal Deputy Judge President Mjabuliseni Isaac Madondo on Monday granted an order for the trial of former president Jacob Zuma and co-accused French arms firm, Thales, to be postponed in absentia on May 6 2020.
In a statement released by KwaZulu-Natal National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Natasha Kara, Madondo cited the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic as the mitigating factor having led to the postponement.
“Due to the Covid-19 lockdown travel and court appearance restrictions and by agreement, all parties have committed to the provisional postponement of the matter to June 23”, the statement read.
On Sunday City Press reported that the matter would be postponed after the state and defence all met and agreed that travel restrictions instituted across the country to slow the spread of the Covid-19 would be a great hindrance.
City Press has been reliably told that all parties had agreed that, even though government had eased lockdown restrictions, air travel was still off limits, meaning most of the lawyers in the case would have had to drive to Pietermaritzburg to attend the hearing.
Most affected would have been French arms company Thales, which would have been unable to send a representative to the hearing because of the ban on international travel.
The trial was expected to go ahead after Zuma’s new attorney, Eric Mabuza, announced the withdrawal last week of an application to the Constitutional Court to appeal the Pietermaritzburg High Court’s dismissal of his stay of prosecution.
This seemed to spell the end of Zuma’s Stalingrad defence, which had resulted in his legal team’s stalling the commencement of the trial at every turn, an accusation the team had denied.
Mabuza said the withdrawal of the Constitutional Court application “paves the way for him [Zuma] to prepare for the trial, and demonstrate he had not benefited from the arms deal corruption or tried to evade a trial”.
Although the matter is postponed, Zuma may still address his supporters via social media on Wednesday.
Radical Economic Transformation (RET) group chairperson and Zuma ally Carl Niehaus told City Press that even if Zuma did not go to court on Wednesday, there was a chance that he would address his supporters via social media.
“As you would know, we had in the past planned to go in our numbers to the Pietermaritzburg High Court and show our support for Zuma, but with the pandemic, we can no longer do this.
“As a result, we are looking at alternatives. While we are still in talks with Zuma and other RET members, I can confirm that there is a strong possibility that the former president might address his supporters on social media on Wednesday,” said Niehaus.