Former president Jacob Zuma’s criminal trial, which was set to commence in the KwaZulu-Natal division of the South African High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday after his application for a permanent stay of prosecution was denied last week, has been postponed to February 4 2020.
The postponement comes after the former president’s legal team said they would be appealing last week’s dismissal of Zuma’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution.
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.
Zuma’s legal team has until the first of November to lodge an appeal, given that this could only happen within 15 days of the judgment that was handed on Friday.
Downer said the state was ready to commence with the criminal proceedings, a sentiment also expressed by Zuma’s advocate Thabani Masuku.
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.
Judges Bhekisisa Mnguni, Thoba Poyo-Dlwati and Esther Steyn last week dismissed Zuma’s application, saying the “unreasonable delay” in prosecution – which Zuma has argued to be prejudicial to his cause – were as a result of both parties, the National Prosecution Authority and the former president’s numerous court challenges.
This paved the way for the former president 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.