Just two months after being forced to quit, former president Jacob Zuma finds himself in the dock at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban, where he faces a multitude of charges related to the infamous arms deal.
It remains to be seen whether chaos will ensue in the city today, but it is well-known that, in true fashion, a hoard of supporters will converge outside court in what is a Zuma KwaZulu-Natal stronghold.
Just one of the activities the “Hands off Zuma” campaign has planned is “the mother of all prayer meetings” outside court – to bless and protect Zuma, who certain clergy members believe is innocent.
But that is the least of the city’s problems as it braces for the scores of people who the ANC has confirmed will be bussed from in and around KwaZulu-Natal to back Zuma.
The Hands off Zuma campaign kicked off last night with a night vigil at the nearby Albert Park.
An early morning march from Dinizulu Park to the high court to “shut down Durban CBD” is also expected, with messages flying thick and fast on social media warning that supporters will wear ANC colours during a protest.
This is despite a call from the ANC discouraging it.
“Members involved in such actions are discouraged from displaying ANC paraphernalia and thus creating the false impression that the ANC as [an] organisation identifies with, or approve of, the misdemeanours of which any member or leader maybe accused,” ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said last week.
Zuma is expected to appear on allegations of 12 counts of fraud, two of corruption, one of money laundering, and one of racketeering.
These are related to the 783 payments allegedly made to and on behalf of Zuma by his then financial adviser Schabir Shaik and his Nkobi Group totalling more than R4 million.
Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2005 over the same charges. He was released on medical parole after serving two years and four months of his prison term.
But Shaik has been spotted on several occasions at golf courses and is known to go to a popular Italian eatery in Durban, daily.
Zuma is likely to say today that he had no intention to commit fraud.
While at this stage it is unclear what legal gymnastics his defence team will be performing, it is believed senior advocate Kemp J Kemp, who will represent Zuma, will ask for a postponement.
The application will be based on pending court action by the DA over who will pay for Zuma’s legal fees – the state or Zuma himself.
It is understood Zuma also wants to complete his review paperwork over National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Shaun Abrahams’ decision to charge him, despite Zuma making representations.
The R4 million Zuma is accused of receiving is chump change compared to the pending state capture judicial inquiry which is expected to begin this year, which is part of what some have called a “well-calculated campaign to isolate him”.
Zuma has spent R15.3 million of public funds in legal fees trying to avoid being “isolated”, his biggest fight being over the spy tapes.
The tapes contain recorded conversations between the former head of the Directorate of Special Operations – or the Scorpions – Leonard McCarthy and former NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka, providing evidence – according to the NPA – of collusion against Zuma by former NPA officials and former president Thabo Mbeki.
The Supreme Court of Appeal last year ruled that the dropping of charges by the NPA was irrational and reinstated them.
Subsequent representations by Zuma’s legal team failed to sway Abrahams and, perhaps due in part to massive public pressure, the charges were put back on the table.
- Much has been made in recent years about the supposed 783 charges against Jacob Zuma, leading to plenty of head-scratching, when it was announced that the former president would be charged with only 18 crimes.
- His appearance, along with Thales SA (formerly Thomson-CSF Holding) in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court today, are indeed only on 18 charges.
The charges are:
- 12 counts of fraud
- 4 counts of corruption
- 1 count of money laundering
- 1 count of racketeering.
- The confusion surrounding the number of charges stems from a forensic investigation conducted by auditing firm, KPMG, ahead of the trial of Zuma’s former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik. The investigation was conducted on behalf of the NPA, and found that Shaik and his Nkobi Group had made 783 payments, totalling more than R4 million, to and on behalf of Zuma between 1995 and 2006.
– Additional reporting Yadhana Jadoo