Former president Jacob Zuma’s legal team on Monday asked for a three-week postponement.
PRESIDING Judge Piet Koen is expected to deliver his judgment on former president Jacob Zuma’s application to postpone his arms deal trial on Tuesday morning.
This followed a day of hearing submissions from Zuma’s lawyers and the State regarding the former president’s argument that his rights would be violated if his corruption trial was heard virtually.
Zuma’s legal team was meant to deal with their application to have State advocate Billy Downer recused on Monday. Instead, they asked for a three-week postponement.
Zuma’s lawyer, advocate Dali Mpofu, made a special plea application to postpone the matter until Zuma could appear before the court in person and give oral evidence in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
State advocate Wim Trengove SC labelled the plea as “merely a ruse” to avoid answering the corruption charges.
Mpofu told Judge Koen that his team found it difficult to consult their client since his incarceration at the Estcourt Correctional Facility.
Zuma was present online during Monday’s proceedings as he logged on virtually through Microsoft Teams. Trengove argued that Zuma’s presence online during the court proceedings was appropriate and lawful.
However, Mpofu said Zuma did not consent to having his special plea heard virtually and that he had the right to a public trial and to be present when being tried.
He told the court that, “ironically”, Zuma’s rights were violated 20 days ago when he was convicted and sentenced to prison by the Constitutional Court without a proper trial – a claim that has been largely disputed by the court.
“It’s a matter of once bitten, twice shy,” Mpofu said, adding that Zuma should not be tried without being physically present or allowed to make oral submissions.
The State also argued that there was no need for Zuma to give oral evidence as his 5,000 pages of evidence was sufficient.
Zuma faces 18 charges and 783 counts related to the case. The charges include fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering. He is charged along with French arms manufacturer Thales.
The charges are in connection with the 1999 purchase of fighter jets and other military equipment from five international arms companies.
Nine of his charges are for allegedly making false income tax returns. The case has dragged on for close to two decades
Zuma has pleaded not guilty to all charges which form part of an indictment in his corruption trial.
He has always maintained that he was innocent and the charges levelled against him were politically motivated and part of a political ploy to destroy him.
The former statesman is accused of receiving several bribes during the procurement process of the multibillion-rand arms deal around 1998 and 1999, at a time when Zuma was MEC for Economic Development in KwaZulu-Natal.
Among the bribes Zuma is alleged to have pocketed is a R500,000 annual retainer that was allegedly paid by Thales through his then financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, whose Nkobi Holdings was a BEE partner to Thales in the deal.
– Political Bureau