After a massive outcry over his non-attendance in court earlier this year, citing ill health, former president Jacob Zuma is expected to appear in person at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday for his corruption trial.
The matter, well over a decade in the making, is on the cusp of going to trial after failed applications for a stay of prosecution by both Zuma and co-accused French arms company, Thales.
Ahead of the proceedings, both the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Zuma’s legal team, headed by recently appointed advocate Eric Mabuza, were mum on exactly what could unfold during proceedings, suggesting a postponement for a holding date – which has been rumoured – would be the tip of the iceberg in the high court.
When contacted by News24, Mabuza simply said:
The NPA and State prosecutor Billy Downer also declined to comment.
The build-up to Tuesday’s pre-trial hearing comes amid a backdrop of a legal tussle over the start date for the trial, who will preside on the bench, and Zuma even claiming he was being discriminated against by the judiciary.
Zuma believes judiciary against him
During an episode of Zooming with Zumas, a series of interviews by the former president and his son, Duduzane, he spoke of his readiness for his day in court.
Former President Jacob Zuma says he is not using his illness to run from the law and if he’s sent to jail, he will serve his time.
During the 49-minute episode, Zuma spoke about his so-called persecution by the media, the judiciary and some of his detractors.
Zuma is on trial for 16 charges, including racketeering, fraud, corruption and money laundering.
He said he was preparing to “demonstrate that he has never benefitted from any arms deal corruption or tried to evade the trial”.
News24 reported that, when responding to questions around his impending court cases, Zuma said he believed that some judges have pronounced him guilty even before the case is heard.
He said it was almost a given that if he went to certain courts, he could not win a case. He said some people in the judiciary “have pronounced that Zuma will never win a case in my court”.
Battle over start date
BusinessLive this week reported that Zuma questioned an alleged communication between KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Achmat Jappie and lead prosecutor Downer.
The report said Zuma wanted answers about why Jappie corresponded with Downer about when the trial was likely to proceed.
Zuma is adamant that he wants to go on trial in October, while the State contends the case will be ready for trial in 2021, the publication said.
The defence and state teams will likely discuss dates this week – and this, along with who will preside over the trial, is at the heart of the first major outcome to be reached.
At an appearance earlier this year, Judge Dhaya Pillay told Zuma’s legal team that they must give reasons why Zuma missed a previous court appearance.
Zuma’s lawyer at the time, Daniel Mantsha, who has since been sacked, presented the court with a document he said was from a military doctor.
However, Pillay said there were issues with the document before court, and needed more proof.
The normal flurry of Zuma supporters outside court will not happen either, after Zuma’s KZN supporters’ spokesperson Vusi Dube said that Covid-19 logistically hampered their transport.
A group of Zuma supporters in Johannesburg, however, will be meeting at the Booysens Hotel and Conference Centre to watch the proceedings. Numbers will be limited to 50 people, and those without masks will be denied access.