Jacob Zuma. Picture: VELI NHLAPO
Jacob Zuma. Picture: VELI NHLAPO

Lawyers acting for former president Jacob Zuma in the corruption trial due to start in May filed a formal notice of withdrawal in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Wednesday.

Eric Mabuza filed the notice as Zuma’s attorney of record, but did not provide reasons for the withdrawal. Mabuza did not respond to queries for comment. It is understood the withdrawal will include advocate Muzi Sikhakhane.

The latest development comes after the Supreme Court of Appeal dealt Zuma a blow last week when it ruled he was not entitled to state funds for his corruption trial legal costs, and ordered him to pay back R25m already incurred during the legal proceedings.

Despite this, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Wednesday, “the state remains ready to proceed with the trial from May 17 2021”. 

During the last hearing in February, state advocate Billy Downer told the court that Zuma and a representative from French arms company Thales had made the undertaking and as a result there was no need for judge Nkosinathi Chili to make any order to compel the parties to be in attendance at this stage.

At the time, Zuma’s attorney Rudolph Baloyi said Zuma was “ready” to stand trial and he was doing “fine” amid his legal woes. The trial was set down from May 17 to June 30 and is expected to be lengthy as there are more than 200 witnesses on the state’s list.

Zuma is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500,000 from 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.

Update: April 21 2021
This article has been updated with comment from the NPA.

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