The former president’s legal team want his corruption trial to be postponed until he can physically appear in court and give oral evidence.
FORMER president Jacob Zuma’s legal team want his corruption trial to be postponed until he can physically appear in court and give oral evidence – a new request he made to the court in a special plea application.
The Pietermaritzburg High Court heard arguments by Zuma’s lawyer, advocate Dali Mpofu, and the State’s advocate, Wim Trengove, on Monday morning.
Zuma’s legal team were meant to deal with their application to have State advocate Billy Downer recused, but instead the have asked for a postponement.
Mpofu told presiding Judge Piet Koen that his team found difficulty in consulting with their client since his incarceration at the Escort Correctional Facility.
Zuma was present for the virtual sitting, having being allowed to connect via Microsoft Teams from a private room at the correctional facility.
Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red tie, the former statesman seemed to be in good spirits as he waved to the camera and smiled before proceedings started.
Mpofu has argued that Zuma did not consent to have his special plea heard virtually and that he had the right to a public trial and to be present when being tried.
“Those rights are enshrined in the Constitution and not even a minister can take those away,” Mpofu said.
He told the court that “ironically” Zuma’s rights were violated 20 days earlier when he was convicted and sentenced to prison by the Constitutional Court without a proper trial – a claim that has been 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.
Mpofu told Judge Koen he would request “a two- to three-week” adjournment, as they were also waiting for the judgment from the Constitutional Court regarding Zuma’s application to have his 15-month sentence for contempt rescinded.
Judge Koen pointed out to Mpofu that 5,000 pages of evidence have already been submitted in Zuma’s special plea application and questioned the point of hearing oral submissions, but Mpofu said the affidavits mentioned that Zuma wanted to lead oral testimony as part of his special plea application.
Judge Koen stressed that Zuma’s case had already been extremely delayed and it was in everyone’s best interests that it be resolved.
State advocate Trengove has opposed the request to postpone the matter, saying that Zuma was as present as any accused tried virtually. He said Zuma had for more than 10 years taken “every point in the book” to avoid his day in court.
“He desperately seeks to avoid answering the charges of corruption, fraud and money-laundering made against him,” Trengove said.
He argued that Zuma “copy and pasted” 135 paragraphs from his permanent stay application to the Constitutional Court into his application for a special plea.
“It is merely a ruse. It’s a rehash of old complaints dressed up. It is abuse to rerun the same complaints again,” he said.
Trengove said using the virtual platform was “legitimate, appropriate and lawful”.
The case continues.