Zuma foundation criticises NPA on requested postponement for corruption trial

South Africa's embattled former president Jacob Zuma appears in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on corruption charges, in what would be the first time he faces trial for graft despite multiple accusations, in Pietermaritzburg on October 15, 2019. Picture: Michele Spatari / POOL / AFP

The former president recently withdrew his Constitutional Court application to have his prosecution stayed for alleged corruption related to the arms deal.

The Jacob Zuma Foundation has criticised the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for initially accusing the former president of delay tactics in the corruption trial linked to the multibillion-rand arms deal, only to now request for postponement of court proceedings until 2021.

In a letter from the state to Zuma’s foundation, the foundation highlighted that the state now proposed that the trial be postponed as it needed time to prepare.

“The foundation places on record that the former president JG Zuma is ready to proceed with the trial immediately and that it is now the state that is seeking postponement of the tail on a variety of frivolous grounds at this point.

“Secondly, the lead prosecutor advocate Billy Downer SC has been having private correspondence and telephonic conversations with the Judge President Jappie of the KwaZulu natal Provincial Division about this case without the knowledge or consent of the legal representatives of former president JG Zuma.

“Most disturbing about this is the fact that advocate Billy Downer has not only sought to negotiate the allocation of a trial date in 2021 but has also discussed the merits of the case with Judge President Jappie, who at this stage has no role in the administration of the case as this is being handled by the deputy judge president Madondo.”

Zuma’s legal team has written to the judge president of the KwaZulu-Natal division to register their objection and complaint about the patently prejudicial conduct.

“As a foundation, we are taken aback and disappointed by the extent to which the state has again engaged in legally unprofessional and unethical conduct in having ex parts communication with a judge where the history of the matter is altered with evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and interference.”

The trial was expected to start on 6 May in the Pietermaritzburg High Court but the Covid-19 outbreak forced for a postponement for 23 June.

The spokesperson of the NPA in KZN Natasha Kara in an earlier statement said: “By agreement, all parties have committed to the provisional postponement of the matter for the following purposes: firstly, the continuation of pre-trial management; secondly, the result of accused number two’s (Thales) application to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal against the Pietermaritzburg High Court’s judgment in October 2019; thirdly, an inquiry in terms of section 170 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Act, no. 51 of 1977 regarding accused number one’s (Zuma) failure to appear at the hearing on 4 February 2020.”

In February, the Pietermaritzburg High Court issued a warrant to arrest Zuma for failing to appear in court, but it was stayed until June 23.

The former president recently withdrew his Constitutional Court application to have his prosecution stayed for alleged corruption related to the arms deal.

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