Former president Jacob Zuma's arms deal trial finally ready to start

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Former president Jacob Zuma is seen inside the Pietermaritzburg High Court during a previous appearance.
Former president Jacob Zuma is seen inside the Pietermaritzburg High Court during a previous appearance.
PHOTO: Gallo Images/Thulie Dlamini
  • Former president Jacob Zuma will be tried from 17 May in the now infamous arms deal matter.
  • All outstanding matters, including a review application by co-accused French arms company Thales to have the racketeering charges scrapped, have been put to bed.
  • Zuma was not in present in court and neither were his supporters.

Former president Jacob Zuma will finally have his day in court after the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg heard on Tuesday that his corruption case was finally ready for trial.

Well over a decade in the making, the case overcame a final few hurdles, including a review application from Zuma's co-accused, French arms company Thales.

But eventually, the matter was certified trial ready for the period 17 May to 20 June. Further particulars were put to rest in the brief court session.

Zuma and Thales are accused of colluding in the now infamous arms deal. Zuma's financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, was convicted of soliciting a bribe for Zuma.

Both Zuma and Thales face charges of fraud, racketeering, corruption and money laundering relating to the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal.

Senior State advocate Billy Downer said all parties agreed to postpone the matter after Thales' review application to have the racketeering charges thrown out. The review was unsuccessful.

Downer said there were more than 200 witnesses on the State's list.

He added that there were Covid-19-related issues, but it was agreed that the matter could still move forward.

He said: 

As far as the issue of holding the trial and the Covid-19 consequences, we know that with lockdown and travel restrictions to and from SA, it is affecting witnesses living overseas. It remains a consideration. We are not sure what is going to happen further. We all agree we are ready for trial.

"It is merely a question of setting the trial date."

Downer said he spoke to representatives of the office of the KwaZulu-Natal Directorate of Public Prosecutions and was told that 17 May was an acceptable date.

Neither Zuma nor any of his usual supporters were in court on Tuesday. Bishop Vusi Dube, the chief organiser for supporters on the ground during the corruption matter, told News24 they would mobilise when the trial commenced.

ALSO READ | Zuma can avoid jail time if he agrees to testify now - Zondo

This week, News24 reported further legal woes for Zuma when the Zondo commission sought an order that Zuma be found guilty of contempt and that he should be sentenced to two years behind bars.

They also want Police Minister Bheki Cele and national police commissioner Khehla Sitole to be ordered "to take all steps as may be required to give effect" to that order.

The commission turned to the Constitutional Court after Zuma defied its 28 January ruling which ordered him to appear before commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, to answer questions that did not implicate him in specific criminal conduct.

Zuma refused and compared the Constitutional Court's ruling to the apartheid state's targeted persecution of PAC leader Robert Sobukwe, whose jail term was repeatedly and unlawfully extended under the so-called "Sobukwe clause".

News24 reported that when Zondo announced the inquiry would lodge a contempt of court application against him and seek his imprisonment after he defied a summons for him to appear before it from 15 to 19 February, Zuma effectively accused him and any judge who had ruled against him of bias or corruption – without any evidence.

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