Home South African Jacob Zuma ‘not abusing legal rights’

Jacob Zuma ‘not abusing legal rights’

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In granting another adjournment of corruption trial, judge brings some relief to ex-president and his supporters.

Former president Jacob Zuma arrives at Pietermaritzburg High Court. File Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

GRANTING another adjournment of the Jacob Zuma corruption trial to May 17, Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Piet Koen also emboldened the camp of the former president when he said Zuma was not abusing his rights by appealing almost every adverse decision against him.

On Monday the Zuma corruption trial, which stems from the arms deal of the late 1990s, returned to the court for the umpteenth time, but without his presence as he was said to be sick and getting medical attention.

Co-accused in the trial is Thales, a French arms company accused of working with Schabir Shaik to bribe Zuma to get contracts during the arms procurement, and to further shield it from being investigated for corruption.

However, the trial hit another snag when Zuma’s legal team led by advocate Dali Mpofu SC, working with advocate Thabani Masuku SC, brought an application for a postponement.

The reason for the postponement was that Zuma had filed a reconsideration application with the president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Mandisa Maya. In the application, Zuma wants Justice Maya to look at the decision of the appeal court judge who decided to dismiss his Billy Downer recusal application without even granting him an audience.

In the Downer application, Zuma wants the top National Prosecution Authority (NPA) prosecutor to be recused from his trial, arguing that he compromised himself by leaking information to some sections of the South African media and CIA spies.

After hearing arguments from Mpofu and Downer, who wanted the corruption trial to go ahead, arguing that any further delays would prejudice the prosecuting body, Judge Koen adjourned the court to consider the points raised.

Dudu Myeni and Carl Neihaus at the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Myeni attempted to manhandle the photographer after this picture was taken. Picture: Sandile Ndlovu

In the end, he said the application to Justice Maya by Zuma was equivalent to an appeal, and as such it suspended the last ruling on the matter and prevented the corruption trial from proceeding in parallel. “The trial cannot proceed and should today (on Monday) be adjourned, that follows as a matter of law.

“It does not seem to me that this court has much of a discretion, if it has one at all, to deny those rights statutorily ordained, unless perhaps in the clearest of cases where there is an abuse of rights, the appeal process should be allowed to run its course.

“Mr Zuma has challenged decisions that were adverse to him in the past, usually invoking the entire appeal process to the highest courts in this land, and in many instances he has been unsuccessful, which resulted in inevitable and unfortunate delays.

“He is also on record through previous counsels representing him that he will continue to exercise all rights available to him, but the exercise of those rights, as much as they may be viewed with suspicion and distrust from certain quarters as only resulting in delays which only favour him, do not per se amount to the abuse of those rights.

“A finding of mala fide (carried out with the intent to deceive) would require more and clear proof by the State (NPA), which I cannot make on the allegations in the present papers alone,” Judge Koen ruled, providing some relief to Zuma and his supporters who had crammed the court to follow the high-profile case.

Asked about the judge’s comments, NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said their only preoccupation was ensuring all legal hurdles were cleared, and that the matter went to trial.

Seemingly vindicated, Mzwanele Manyi, the spokesperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation, said he hoped it would be the last time the NPA claimed that Zuma was engaging in Stalingrad tactics to avoid his day in court.

“That is a comment by the judge … the judge himself has ruled on the matter basically, that what (former) president Zuma is doing is provided for in the law, and there is no evidence of mala fide. So, I think the next time we hear anybody saying Stalingrad, we must know that person is undermining the judge,” Manyi said to the Daily News outside the court.

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