Home corruption Zuma’s arms deal case set for court amid uncertainty

Zuma’s arms deal case set for court amid uncertainty

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Zuma and his allies have remained mum on the former president’s next step despite his parting of ways with his legal team

Former president Jacob Zuma. File picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

FORMER President Jacob Zuma is expected back in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday, although it is unclear if the case will proceed as the former head of state parted ways with his legal team last month with his new attorneys not known yet.

As he is expected back in the dock on Monday, Zuma and his allies have remained mum on the former president’s next step despite he and his legal team of advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, Eric Mabuza SC, advocate Thabani Masuku SC, Rudolph Baloyi and advocate Mpilo Sikhakhane having parted ways.

But the National Prosecuting Authority in KwaZulu-Natal said on Sunday it was ready to proceed with the trial on Monday.

KZN NPA spokesperson Natasha Kara said the State was of the view that the matter was set down for Monday. “The State is ready for trial,” Kara said.

The legal team’s parting of ways with Zuma came in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme of Appeal ruling that Zuma was not entitled to have the state fund his legal costs.

Unconfirmed reports have linked advocate Thabani Masuku SC with a return to represent Zuma, however, when contacted for comment by Independent Media on Saturday Masuku declined to comment saying he was not allowed to speak to the media.

There have been varying reports on the reasons behind Zuma and his legal counsel going their separate ways, with some reports suggesting that Zuma dumped his lawyers because he set his sights on defending himself in court.

Zuma was said to believe that the case against him was no longer a criminal trial but a politically motivated one designed to finish him off, while other reports have suggested that Zuma’s lawyers dumped him because he ran out of funds for the case.

Earlier this week, Zuma met with human rights lawyer Richard Spoor after the lawyer took to Twitter last month saying he was willing to take on Zuma’s case free of charge, but following their meeting Spoor told talk radio station 702 Radio Zuma had rejected his offer.

Spoor said his gesture, to offer Zuma free representation, was spontaneous and was out of anger that lawyers would drop their client when the client had run out of money, adding that he found it “repulsive and wrong”.

“I met up with the former president to discuss his case and although he did not take me up on my offer and I will not be present with him in court on Monday, I am more persuaded that he deserves a decent defence which I don’t think he has been given and if he needs my assistance in the near future I am ready to provide it.

“I think people do not have a fair understanding of what this case is about.

“It’s been going on for 15 years and it’s tainted his life and his legacy.

“I see him as the underdog here,” Spoor said.

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille will be the first state witness when the former president’s corruption, fraud, money laundering, racketeering and tax evasion trial resumes on Monday.

De Lille, who first blew the whistle on the multibillion-rand arms deal almost 22 years ago, told Independent Media the NPA had asked her to give evidence on the document she presented in the National Assembly on September 9, 1999.

She said she would be the State’s first witness when the trial resumes on Monday.

According to De Lille, she is expected to give evidence on the contents of her dossier, which she still believes needed to be investigated by law enforcement agencies.

De Lille’s dossier was handed to her by a group of concerned ANC MPs.

In the dossier, the former Cape Town mayor revealed that before the government confirmed British Aerospace as one of the preferred bidders the company bought ANC national executive committee member and the governing party’s then chief whip Tony Yengeni a Mercedes-Benz ML 320 Auto 4X4.

At the time, Yengeni’s luxury vehicle had been ordered by a representative of Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG for R307,400 through an inter-group discount scheme.

It was later sold to Yengeni in 1998 when he was chairperson of Parliament’s joint standing committee on defence for R182,500, a discount of nearly R125,000, under the false pretext that it was damaged.

She also accused Zuma, who was KZN economic affairs and tourism MEC at the time, and his former financial advisor Schabir Shaik of being involved in arms deal corruption. Yengeni and Shaik were both jailed for fraud.