Zuma has 'taken every point in the book' to avoid answering charges against him, court hears

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Former South African president Jacob Zuma addresses the media in his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Former South African president Jacob Zuma addresses the media in his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
EMMANUEL CROSET / AFP
  • Lawyers for former President Jacob Zuma say his right to a fair trial would be violated if a "special plea" is argued virtually.
  • Advocate Dali Mpofu, for Zuma, said the former President's application should be determined through the hearing of oral evidence.
  • But Advocate Wim Trengove for the NPA says Zuma "desperately" seeks to avoid answering to charges against him.

While former President Jacob Zuma's lawyers seek a postponement of his application for acquittal on corruption charges through a special plea, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) argued on Monday that the former President has for more than 10 years, "... taken every point in the book", to avoid answering to the charges against him.

Advocate Wim Trengove for the NPA said Zuma "desperately" seeks to avoid answering the charges of corruption, fraud, and money laundering made against him.

"He raises objections again and again," Trengove said, adding the objections raised have already been dealt with by the Supreme Court of Appeal in the spy tapes case and a full bench in his stay of prosecution case.

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"This is simply a rehash of old complaints dressed up as special defence under Section 106 (1) (h) [of the Criminal Procedure Act).  But it is merely a ruse. It is recycling of old complaints," Trengove said.

Trengove also said 135 paragraphs of Zuma's current heads of argument were "simply lifted" from his application for leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court.

He added: 

This application is Stalingrad season 27, and that's all it is.

Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Piet Koen had issued a directive that the application should be argued virtually.

However, on Monday, Zuma's Advocate Dali Mpofu SC asked for a postponement of two to three weeks, saying they expected the Constitutional Court to deliver judgment on the former President's rescission application.

"All these problems will be resolved through the stroke of a pen," he said.

Mpofu said Zuma's rights to a fair trial would be violated if the special plea was argued virtually.

He told the court that Zuma had a right to be present in court and that his special plea application should be determined through the hearing of oral evidence.

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He also told the court that Zuma's lawyers have been struggling to consult with the former President.

But Trengove said the virtual platform was, "... legitimate, lawful, and appropriate for the determination of the special defence because it may be determined without oral evidence".

He said Zuma was present and could also participate as much as he would have been able to do in an actual court hearing.

Evidence

Trengove added that the request for oral evidence was, "... unfounded and unnecessary".

"There is no point in any oral evidence. The special defence under 106 (1) (h) can and should be decided on the papers as they stand."

He added the application for postponement should be dismissed.  

In May, Zuma pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him, including corruption, fraud, racketeering, and money laundering, News24 reported.    

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The former President faces 16 charges relating to 783 payments he allegedly received from his his former financial advisor Schabir Shaik, as well as a R500 000 a year bribe that that state says Shaik facilitated for him from French arms company Thales. 

Zuma has argued that NPA prosecutor Billy Downer should be removed from the case. 

Conducted

"There are facts and circumstances that give me a reasonable impression that Mr Downer has conducted himself, in this case, in a manner that lacks the independence and impartiality that is necessary for a lawful prosecution," he submitted.

Zuma also said Downer had failed to uphold the standard and prosecutorial independence needed to ensure that his trial was fair.

He added that Downer had, "... placed himself as a witness against me", when he filed an affidavit in support of the DA's application to review and set aside an NPA decision to drop charges.

"His opposition for the NPA's basis for defending the termination of prosecution decision places him in a position of a prosecutor who is neither independent nor impartial in relation to my rights to a fair trial or the obligation of the State to ensure that I enjoy a fair trial."

Downer has pointed out that he filed the affidavit in question, after being asked to do so by the NPA. He has consistently maintained that Zuma should answer to the charges against him and disagreed with the NPA's invalidated decision to drop charges against him in 2009.

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