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Former president Jacob Zuma. File picture: SANDILE NDLOVU.
Former president Jacob Zuma. File picture: SANDILE NDLOVU.

Former president Jacob Zuma will not be present on Tuesday when his arms deal-related corruption case again comes before Pietermaritzburg High Court judge Piet Koen.

Tuesday was set as a “holding date” for feedback from the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on whether its president, judge Mandisa Maya, had given thought to Zuma’s “reconsideration” application after two SCA judges previously denied him leave to appeal against a ruling by Koen. The order effectively dismissed his bid to have lead prosecutor advocate Billy Downer barred from prosecuting him.

Koen, when the matter was last before him in April, excused Zuma, absent because of illness, and the representative of French Arms company Thales from attending.

On Monday, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said there had been “no communication from the SCA”.

“The judge will now have to determine what happens,” he said.

Zuma’s spokesperson, Mzwanele Manyi, confirmed there had been “no outcome” from the SCA.

Asked how Zuma was health-wise, he said: “On and off.”

Previously, in his ruling again postponing the trial pending the SCA ruling, Koen said that in terms of the law his hands were tied and he could not set a date for the continuation of the trial until the outcome of the “reconsideration” application.

This was because SA law dictated that if an appeal had been lodged against a ruling, that ruling was automatically suspended unless it could be shown, in very exceptional circumstances, that the appeal was an abuse of court processes, he said.

In this matter, the state had not done enough to prove this.

Koen did, however, refer to the interests of justice inherent in the trial proceeding and said it needed to be “closely managed by judicial oversight”. Because of this, he set May 31 as the next trial date.

He said the second and third court terms had been set aside for the trial.

Because of the delays he said the fourth (last term) would also be set aside. With no word from the SCA, on Tuesday he will have to set another holding date and another, new proposed date for the continuation of the trial.

After pleading not guilty to the charges, Zuma raised a special plea in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, saying Downer, whom he accuses of bias and misconduct, had no “title” to prosecute him.

Koen ruled that “title to prosecute”, in decided law, had nothing to do with bias or misconduct. It was about “legal standing” or authority to prosecute, which Downer had.

Zuma’s complaints about Downer would be more properly raised during the trial, the judge said. He later refused to grant leave to appeal against his ruling.

The former president then petitioned the SCA, arguing that Koen was wrong. But two judges, without hearing argument, dismissed this, saying the application had no prospects of success.

It is this decision Zuma wants judge Maya to “reconsider”.

Zuma also laid criminal charges against Downer for allegedly leaking his confidential medical information to a journalist through the release of court papers that contained a report from his doctor. 

While the NPA has declined to prosecute, Zuma’s legal team said he would institute a private prosecution against Downer.

Zuma and Thales face charges of racketeering, corruption, money-laundering and fraud relating to the arms deal. The former is accused of receiving about R4m via his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, to assist Thales to secure defence contracts.

Shaik was convicted in 2005, but released on medical parole in 2009.

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