After a full week of arguments before court in Pietermariztburg this week, it is now clearer than ever before that former president Jacob Zuma will exploit every avenue available to him to avoid prosecution.
He is, as the court was told, perfectly within his rights to do so. The latest volley in an extensive history of litigation over the alleged bribes Zuma was paid by French arms company Thales in the late 1990’s was heard before the KwaZulu-Natal High Court Pietermaritzburg Division this week.
Zuma attempted to convince a full bench comprising Judges Thoba Poyo-Dlwati, Bhekisisa Mnguni and Esther Steyn the court should grant him a permanent stay of prosecution, which means he would be immune to the charges of fraud, money laundering, racketeering and corruption he now faces. Thales similarly asked the court to grant it the same relief. But one member of the Zuma legal team confided in News24 when proceedings wrapped up on Friday, he was certain the court would dismiss the application.
Among the legal minds involved in the case News24 spoke to, an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal by whichever party loses, Zuma, Thales or the State, is almost inevitable. What this will mean is another year or more of haggling and arguing before the courts of our countries before we know whether Zuma will finally be put on trial.
Advocate Wim Trengove, SC, opposing Zuma’s application on behalf of the State, elaborated in his arguments and court papers how the Stalingrad defence adopted by the former number one citizen. A Stalingrad defence is named after the tactics used by Russian forces in their defence of the city of Stalingrad during World War II against a massive German invasion. In legal terms, it means opposing and appealing every at every possible juncture, which has the effect of delaying the case for years.
Zuma’s legal teams over the years have managed to do exactly this for around 15 years.
In 2007, Zuma’s long-time lawyer Kemp J Kemp told the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban that Zuma’s litigation was “more like Stalingrad. It’s burning house to burning house.”
This week the court heard nothing new. It was the same arguments, the same facts the courts have been asked to look at before, but dressed in a different frock. Last-minute drama ensued over a letter that speaks to Zuma’s arguments he was the victim of a political conspiracy Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane tried to introduce as evidence.
The letter, from former national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams to former Hawks head Yolisa Matakata, asks for an investigation into alleged bribes paid to the ANC and former justice minister Penuell Maduna. But the allegations are not new, only the existence of the letter is a revelation.
After having argued nothing significantly new, the teams parted ways to await the court’s judgment. But the introduction of this letter is significant, in that it implicates the ANC, Zuma’s beloved party, as a party to grand corruption.
Zuma has essentially now shown he is not adverse to hurting the ANC to avoid answering to the charges against him, and can be interpreted as a warning shot. The ANC and Maduna, in exchange for the 1-million and €50 000 respectively, were supposed to make the case against Thales go away.
Former NDPP Bulelani Ngcuka did in fact withdraw the charges against the company in 2003. Questions now arise whether Zuma is willing to reveal the rest of the story, as members of his legal team alluded to, there may be more than just this letter and whether his long rumoured fight back campaign is about to shift into second gear.
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