Zuma's crucial court battle to stop his prosecution

30 November 2018 - 06:00
By Karyn Maughan
Former president Jacob Zuma in the Pietermaritzburg High Court for his third appearance on charges of fraud and corruption on July 27, 2018.
Image: Jackie Clausen/ Pool Former president Jacob Zuma in the Pietermaritzburg High Court for his third appearance on charges of fraud and corruption on July 27, 2018.

Former president Jacob Zuma will fight his last crucial court battle to stop his prosecution for alleged corruption in May 2019 – the same month mooted by the ANC for the 2019 elections.

Zuma’s defence team and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) will on Friday set down deadlines for the former president’s permanent stay of prosecution application, in which his lawyers will argue for the case against him to be permanently dropped.

The state has asked for about two months to respond to Zuma’s multiple allegations of wrongdoing against it – and to argue that his prosecution was not unduly delayed by actions or decisions taken by the NPA.

If there are disputes that cannot be resolved on the evidence presented by both sides, the case can be referred to oral evidence – with the prospect of both Zuma and those he accuses of involvement in alleged malicious prosecution, including former president Thabo Mbeki, being called to testify.

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The case against Zuma links back to events that played out from 1997, when a French arms company called Thompson-CSF, now known as Thales, scored a R2,6bn contract to provide four navy frigates to South Africa as part of the wider multi-billion rand arms deal.

As corruption rumours grew, the state alleged that Thales had agreed in 2002 to pay R500,000 to Zuma, then the country’s deputy president, for his “political protection” in any investigation – a deal allegedly brokered by his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik.

It is further the state’s case against Zuma that Shaik and his Nkobi Holdings made 783 payments to Zuma totalling over R4m in the 10-year period between October 25 1995 and July 1 2005.

In return for these payments, the state claims, Zuma abused his formal position as MEC and as deputy president of the ANC to do unlawful favours for Shaik, who was jailed for his role in the matter, and Nkobi Holdings.

In court papers filed earlier,  Zuma however suggested there could be innocent explanations for the meetings that he held to allegedly unlawfully assist Shaik’s business interests.

Zuma contends that he regularly, and lawfully acted to advance the interests of business groups. Not for corrupt reasons, but because “the relationship of assistance between comrades remains part of the intricate relationship within African culture”.

He claims his corruption prosecution was defined by political manipulation, undue delay and “blatant prosecutorial bias” – all designed “to prejudice me and declare me synonymous with crime and corruption”.

 “Without due process or court determination of my guilt or otherwise, I have faced public and media prosecution engineered and orchestrated by the NPA itself, the result of which is that my name has already been made to be synonymous with corruption,” Zuma stated.

He maintains that the rape case against him, of which he was acquitted, may have been part of a plot to neutralise him as a candidate for the ANC’s leadership race.

Zuma further states that the Spy Tape recordings of former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka discussing the timing of when he would be charged with then Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy “attest to the most grotesque political manipulation and interference ever experienced in the post-apartheid criminal justice system”.