Former president Jacob Zuma is seen in the Pietermaritzburg high court in this file photograph. Zuma is facing charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/THULI DLAMINI
Former president Jacob Zuma is seen in the Pietermaritzburg high court in this file photograph. Zuma is facing charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/THULI DLAMINI

The National Prosecuting Authority is hoping the graft case against former president Jacob Zuma and French arms company Thales will finally go to trial in May.

Zuma is expected to appear in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Tuesday where the trial date is expected to be set.

The NPA has said it is ready to go to trial on May 17.

“The state is ready to start the trial and has indicated its earliest preferred date for trial and Thales has done the same. The actual date of trial will be determined by the court taking into account its court roll and availability of the state and the two defence teams,” spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said.

Zuma and Thales are facing charges of fraud, racketeering, corruption and money laundering relating to the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal of the 1990s. The charges relate to 783 questionable payments connected with the arms deal that led to the jailing of Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik.

It has taken almost three years for the matter to get to trial, with Zuma fighting for more than a decade to avoid facing the corruption charges.

The former president has previously said he wants his day in court, but has continued to use a Stalingrad defence — deploying every possible legal diversion to stop his prosecution.

In 2009, the charges were withdrawn against Thales and Zuma just before he became president of the country. However, in 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturned the decision to withdraw the charges against Zuma.

In March 2018, then national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams reinstated the charges against Zuma and Thales.

In a pre-emptive move ahead of Zuma’s court appearance this week, his foundation said on Sunday it noted that the state, without giving any reasons, has indicated that it would be ready to start the criminal trial in May.  

The Jacob Zuma Foundation has accused the state of dragging its feet, despite its founder’s legal strategy throughout the process.

“While we as the foundation doubt the bona fides or readiness of the state to ever run this case, we hope our judiciary will not tolerate any further postponement beyond this date,” it said.

It repeated claims made by the former president himself that his rights have been “continuously violated and the narrative that he is guilty continues as the NPA’s propaganda”.

Zuma has made similar statements in the past few weeks in defence of why he is defying a Constitutional Court order that he appear before the state capture commission of inquiry to answer questions and give his side of the story.

“We will continue to ask the judiciary to strike this case off until the state is really ready rather than to parade president Zuma as a criminal. The taxpayer’s purse is wasted in the process,” the foundation said.

The NPA said Tuesday’s court proceedings will deal with outstanding pretrial management issues and the setting of the trial date, among other housekeeping issues.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

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