Zuma trial in election month casts a shadow over ANC
It is unclear what effect the former president's politically charged trial will have on the ANC's performance in 2019 elections
Former president Jacob Zuma will fight his last crucial court battle to stop his corruption prosecution in May 2019 — the same month mooted for national elections.
It is unclear what effect this politically-charged trial will have on the ANC which is still recovering from a fractious leadership battle that saw President Cyril Ramaphosa emerge victorious over Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Zuma and his supporters in the governing party have always contended that he is a victim of political machinations in the ANC, and the timing of the trial could hurt it politically.
Zuma’s defence team and the National Prosecuting Authority will on Friday set down deadlines for the former president’s permanent stay of prosecution application, in which his lawyers will argue for the case against him to be permanently dropped.
The state has asked for about two months to respond to Zuma’s multiple allegations of wrongdoing against it — and to argue that his prosecution was not unduly delayed by actions or decisions taken by the NPA.
If there are disputes that cannot be resolved on the evidence presented by both sides, the case can be referred to oral evidence, with the prospect of both Zuma and those he accuses of involvement in alleged malicious prosecution, including former president Thabo Mbeki, being called to testify.
The case against Zuma is linked to events that played out from 1997, when French arms company Thompson-CSF, now known as Thales, scored a R2.6bn contract to provide four navy frigates to the government, as part of the wider R60bn arms deal.
As corruption rumours grew, the state alleges that Thales allegedly agreed in 2002 to pay R500,000 to Zuma, then SA’s deputy president, for his “political protection” in any investigation, a deal allegedly brokered by his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik.
It is the state’s case against Zuma that Shaik and his Nkobi Holdings made 783 payments to Zuma totalling more than R4m in the 10-year period from October 25 1995 to July 1 2005. In return for these payments, the state claims, Zuma abused his position as MEC and as deputy president of the ANC to do unlawful favours for Shaik, who was jailed for his role in the matter, and Nkobi Holdings.
In court papers filed earlier in November, Zuma however suggests there could be innocent explanations for the meetings he held to allegedly unlawfully assist Shaik’s business interests.
Zuma contends that he regularly, and lawfully acted to advance the interests of business groups, not for corrupt reasons, but because “the relationship of assistance between comrades remains part of the intricate relationship within African culture”.
He claims his corruption prosecution has been defined by political manipulation, undue delays and “blatant prosecutorial bias” — all designed “to prejudice me and declare me synonymous with crime and corruption”.
“Without due process or court determination of my guilt or otherwise, I have faced public and media prosecution engineered and orchestrated by the NPA itself, the result of which is that my name has already been made to be synonymous with corruption,” Zuma states.
He maintains that the rape case against him, of which he was acquitted, may have been part of a plot to neutralise him as a candidate for the ANC’s leadership race.
Zuma further states that the spy tape recordings, in which former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka discussed the timing of when he would be charged with then Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy, “attest to the most grotesque political manipulation and interference ever experienced in the post-apartheid criminal justice system”.