Jacob Zuma's further adjournment in the Arms Deal corruption trial granted.
By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
The Pietermaritzburg High Court has postponed former president Jacob Zuma’s government arms deal corruption trial to 17 May 2022.
Judge Piet Koen deferred the trial on Monday due to Zuma's "reconsideration application" before the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
Judge Koen says 17 May is a holding date for the continuation of this case. If the reconsideration application has not been finalised by that date, trial will reconvene, so that another date can be fixed.
In reading the order, Judge Koen said that He cannot find that Zuma's litigation amounts to an abuse of court process - as a finding that Zuma was embarking on Stalingrad litigation would require further evidence.
Judge Koen outlined how the Superior Courts Act - in relation to Zuma's reconsideration application - limits his discretion to refuse Zuma's postponement application because it amounts to an application for leave to appeal. That means the SCA's dismissal of Zuma's special plea appeal is suspended. "The appeal process must be allowed to run its course, Koen further stated.
The SCA in March dismissed with costs Zuma's appeal against his "special plea" application to have state prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer removed from leading the arms deal corruption trial.
The court found that Zuma's appeal had no reasonable prospects of success and there was "no other compelling reason why an appeal should be heard".
However, the former president’s legal team asked SCA president Mandisa Maya to reconsider that decision.
Advocate Dali Mpofu argued for the corruption case against Zuma to be postponed indefinitely so that the former president could pursue his various appeals, including their request to the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Maya, to reconsider their petition.
Zuma wants Downer recused as the chief prosecutor of his arms deal corruption case, accusing him of compromising bias against him and having acted unlawfully on several occasions while handling confidential information.
However, Zuma has since approached Maya to relook at his arguments.
And the state is strongly opposing this.
Addressing the court, Downer stressed that there was clear case law that urged the court not to entertain applications that were aimed at delaying justice. He said such acts could only erode the public's faith in the judicial system.
Downer argued that the courts were being abused. He said that today's trial date, already came after nearly two decades of delays. Downer further argued that Zuma’s application for an indefinite adjournment was part of his continued Stalingrad tactics and attempts to avoid trial.
However, Mpofu took offence to Downer's argument, saying there was no evidence to substantiate this claim.
Zuma is accused of receiving 791 payments, totalling R4.1-million, between 1995 and 2004 from his former financial adviser/economic adviser Schabir Shaik and Shaik’s companies, to help Thales, accused number two, to secure lucrative defence contracts from the government as part of South Africa’s armaments deal.
Downer was part of the original team that successfully secured Shaik's conviction in 2005. Shaik was released on medical parole in March 2009.
Zuma is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud. Thales is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption and one count of money laundering.
Outside court, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority Mthunzi Mhaga told journalists they were disappointed that the trial could not resume as planned, as the State was ready to proceed.
However, Mhaga said the NPA did accept the ruling of the court.
"We are hoping that Justice Maya would have resolved the application by 17 May. We have been waiting and it has been quite an agonising and protracted process for some 17 years.
"We can only hope that finally the matter will resume once all processes are concluded," Mhaga said.
Meanwhile spokesperson for the Jacob Zuma Foundation Mzwanele Manyi has told journalists at the Pietermaritzburg high court that former president is unwell.
Manyi gave the update in the passage outside court.
He confirmed that Zuma has been admitted to hospital and is presently undergoing tests. He would not say which hospital but added that a detailed medical certificate would be drafted.