Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
26 May 2021
12:49 pm

Jacob Zuma’s arms deal corruption trial postponed to July

Thapelo Lekabe

Zuma also wants the high court to acquit him of all charges in the event his application to remove Downer succeeds.

Former president Jacob Zuma in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Picture: Kim Ludbrook /AFP

The Pietermaritzburg High Court on Wednesday postponed the fraud and corruption trial of former president Jacob Zuma and French arms manufacturer Thales to 19 July 2021.

Judge Piet Koen ordered this will be for the adjudication of Zuma’s special plea to remove National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) prosecutor Billy Downer from the case.

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“The state is directed to deliver its answering affidavit by close of business on the 2 June 2021. The accused number one (Zuma) is directed to file his relying affidavit, if any, by 9 June 2021,” Koen said.

“The accused number one is directed to file and deliver his heads of argument in regard to the plea in terms of section 1061 (h) on or before 5 July 2021.”

The state has also been ordered to file its heads of argument by 12 July 2021.

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Zuma’s legal team reserved his right to not disclose the basis of his defence in the trial.

The former president also pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

‘Downer lacks independence and impartiality’

Earlier, Zuma’s legal team led by advocate Thabani Masuku told the court Downer lacked the attributes necessary to lead a fair and independent trial.

“It is clear that Downer should be removed as prosecutor in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act. He is not entitled to conduct a lawful prosecution because he lacks the attributes necessary for a fair trial – independence and impartiality,” Masuku said, reading from Zuma’s affidavit.

Zuma also wants the high court to acquit him of all charges in the event his application to remove Downer succeeds.

Masuku said: “In the event that Downer is removed, I’m entitled to be acquitted in term of the Criminal Procedure Act because my trial cannot be conducted fairly in accordance with the Constitution under the circumstances.

“For all the reasons set above, Mr Downer’s lack of independence and impartiality to conduct a fair trial is terminal and therefore incurable. He should be removed. His passionate pursuit of this prosecution in the circumstances set out is demonstrative of prosecutorial bias in which the only objective is to win.”

Advocate Dali Mpofu, who is also part of Zuma’s legal team, cited an affidavit Downer deposed in the DA’s case to force the NPA to release all documents related to its decision to drop corruption charges against Zuma in April 2009.

The NPA has appointed advocates Wim Trengove, Andrew Breitenbach, Hephzibah Rajah and Ncumisa Mayosi to argue against Zuma’s special plea bid to remove Downer from the case.

Zuma and French arms manufacturer Thales are on trial over the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal concluded in the 1990s.

He is facing 16 counts including fraud‚ corruption, money laundering and racketeering, while Thales faces four counts.

Among the allegations is that the former president received an annual kickback of R500,000 – paid through his then financial advisor Schabir Shaik – in exchange for shielding Thales from an investigation into the deal and he is said to have accepted a total of 783 dodgy payments from the company.

In June 2005, the high court in Durban found Shaik guilty of corruption and sentenced him to more than 15 years in jail. He was later released on medical parole in March 2009.

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