NATIONAL NEWS - As former president Jacob Zuma’s fate lies in whether the judges will approve his permanent stay of prosecution application, which he intends to present this week, political experts say his lawyers’ arguments to back it up are not strong enough.
Zuma’s corruption trial, which has been running for over a decade, began in 2003 after he was implicated in a corruption case with his financial adviser at the time, Schabir Shaik.
Zuma, who was the deputy president, was accused of receiving bribes from Shaik to use his political influence to protect Shaik’s business interests. While Shaik was convicted, Zuma is yet to go to trial 15 years later.
He is set to appear in court with a new legal team for the case’s recommencement today at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg.
In a statement yesterday, co-accused Thales – the state has charged the company – repeated it had “no knowledge of any transgressions having been committed by any of its employees in relation to the awarding of the contract for the combat systems for South Africa’s corvettes (the arms deal in 1999)”.
“Bearing in mind the very long delay of this procedure – through no fault of Thales at all – together with a range of factors beyond its control, Thales believes it cannot obtain a fair trial as it is entitled to under the South-African constitution and international law,” the statement read, and added the company respected the law, “has a zero-tolerance policy on corruption and has cooperated fully with the local authorities at all times, and will continue to do so”.
Despite his controversies, Zuma has received support from many quarters, including politicians, among them African Freedom Revolution leader Bishop Timothy Ngcobo, who has claimed that Zuma has become a “target” and is being “hounded” by those opposed to him.
However, political experts think his legal arguments to be granted a permanent stay of prosecution do not hold water.
Analyst Ralph Mathekga said the case this week would be interesting as the former president’s new legal team was not coming with a new strategy.
He said: “It has always been [Zuma’s legal teams’] strategy to make sure there is no trial that deals with the merit of the case, and they have done this for a number of years.”
He said one of the three arguments the legal team was preparing to present, about the delays in the case not allowing for a free and fair trial, would not hold in court because it was not delays caused by the National Prosecution Authority, but by Zuma himself.
“He and his legal team played a bigger role in the delays and it would be a travesty if the legal team succeeds in what they caused themselves.”
Another political analyst, Professor Andre Duvenage, said although legally Zuma was in trouble because his arguments were not strong enough, politically there was still a chance for him to survive, unlike his political counterpart Ace Magashule, who he believes is in genuine trouble.