Zuma pleads not guilty, won’t disclose basis of defence in corruption trial

26 May 2021 - 11:47 By nivashni nair

Former president Jacob Zuma has reserved his right to not disclose the basis of his defence against fraud and corruption charges.

Zuma pleaded not guilty to racketeering, corruption, fraud and money laundering before presiding judge Piet Koen in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Wednesday.

The court has heard that Zuma is pursuing a special plea calling for the removal of lead prosecutor advocate Billy Downer. 

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Zumas new legal representative, advocate Dali Mpofu, told the court the former president believed his right to a fair trial would be jeopardised as Downer was not impartial.

He said Downer was a witness against Zuma when the DA called for a review after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) did not want to pursue charges against the former president.

Former president Jacob Zuma in the dock at the Pietermaritzburg high court on Wednesday.
Former president Jacob Zuma in the dock at the Pietermaritzburg high court on Wednesday.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Zuma believes if his application to remove Downer is successful, he should be acquitted.

However, Downer told the court that counsel had been instructed to deal with the special plea, as he could not do it because he was the subject of the application.

In a statement on Wednesday, the state said it had appointed four advocates to deal with the matter.

NPA national spokesperson Sipho Ngwenya said advocates Wim Trengove, Andrew Breitenbach, Hephzibah Rajah and Ncumisa Mayosi have been appointed and “effectively given a delegation in terms of the NPA Act to be prosecutors in this matter”.

Zuma's plea is his latest move to put an end to the prosecution. In the past, his defence team was accused of adopting a “Stalingrad approach” by launching court applications to delay the start of the trial, while the state has always said it was ready to proceed.

Zuma is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500,000 from French arms dealer Thales for protection from an investigation into the controversial arms deal.

The alleged bribe was facilitated by Schabir Shaik, who was Zuma’s former financial adviser.

This is a developing story.