Another wait for Jacob Zuma’s day in court

Former president Jacob Zuma’s corruption and racketeering trial on charges related to the government’s arms procurement programme in the 1990s has been postponed until February.

The marathon prosecution of Zuma and French arms dealer Thales (previously Thint) will now sit again on  23 February, after an agreement between the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and legal teams for the two accused.

The adjournment was granted after a virtual meeting in chambers between Judge Kate Pillay, legal teams for Zuma and Thales, and the prosecution team.

Thales had lodged an application for the racketeering charges against the company to be set aside, arguing that they are not justified by the evidence the state has against the company. This application will have to be heard before the case can proceed.

Zuma and Thales face charges over a series of payments made to Zuma by his former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, and his Nkobi Group of companies, totalling about R2.8-million, and a R500 000 bribe paid to Zuma by the arms company while Zuma was economic development MEC in KwaZulu-Natal. Shaik was jailed for 15 years over the payments, but later released on medical parole. The outcome of Shaik’s case led to the arrest of Zuma in 2006. 

The case against Zuma, which was turned into a campaign for the ANC presidency — and that of the country — was withdrawn because of alleged interference in the prosecution. It was later reinstated in 2018, with Zuma and his backers again claiming he was unfairly targeted.

Zuma then made an application for a permanent stay of prosecution at the Supreme Court of Appeal, which failed last October. The former head of state then petitioned the Constitutional Court, but withdrew the appeal in April, paving the way for the case, which has been postponed numerous times, to proceed.

Neither Zuma nor his supporters who usually turn out for his court appearances were present for Tuesday’s pre-trial hearing, in terms of an agreement reached with the judge last week.

Zuma has consistently argued that he is the victim of a politically motivated case and that the charges are part of a broader conspiracy against him.

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