The embattled politician appears with co-accused in the Pietermaritzburg High Court to answer to 16 charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering.
By Seth Meyer
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 2 of VARSITY News.
The long-awaited, much delayed trial of Jacob Zuma was once again underway in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, with the former President appearing as Accused No. 1 in the State’s case against himself and his co-accused, the French arms manufacturer, Thales, implicated in the litany of bribes and corruption (amidst other charges) that Zuma stands accused of.
The case was previously delayed when Zuma’s legal representative, Eric Mabuza announced his withdrawal from the case. The Defence’s filing of an affidavit for Senior Counsel Billy Downer’s recusal from the case also compelled Judge Piet Koen to grant an adjournment for Zuma to facilitate new legal representation and to tender a plea for Downer’s recusal. Downer is representing the State in the matter and has been involved in the litigation of Zuma and his affiliates since 2005.
The trial commenced again on Wednesday morning, with Downer putting charges to both Zuma and Thales. The former president responded in short, stating “I plead Not Guilty” with regard to all counts. Thales, represented in the matter by Advocate Barry Roux, whom South Africans will remember from the Pistorius trial, followed suit with an identical response of “Not Guilty”.
Advocate Dali Mpofu, Zuma’s new legal counsel, commenced reading a prepared statement, declaring on behalf of the former president, with regard to his plea: “I reserve my right not to disclose the basis of my defence at this stage”.
The trial proceeded for approximately two and a half hours before Judge Koen called an adjournment at the State’s request, which has asked for leave to respond to the plea application filed by Zuma with the intent of recusing Downer. The matter was postponed until 19th July when the State is expected to have tendered a response to the application, which Downer described in court as “voluminous”.
Zuma subsequently addressed a crowd of supporters outside court, appearing alongside recently ousted ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule who led the crowd in a triple chant of “Long live President Jacob Zuma, long live!” Magashule is due to face his own corruption trial in August, along with another court case regarding the contention of his suspension from the ANC as Secretary-General, an act he has claimed is “unconstitutional”.
Jacob Zuma is also facing an application to the Constitutional Court against him, from the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, regarding contempt of court. The Constitutional Court had previously ordered Zuma to obey summonses served upon him to appear before the Commission, which he has defied. The Commission has demanded a two-year jail sentence for the former President.