All eyes on Jacob Zuma as Arms Deal trial starts

All eyes on Jacob Zuma as Arms Deal trial starts
South Africa’s attention will be riveted on the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday when Jacob Zuma finally goes on trial for corruption, racketeering and money laundering in connection with the country’s multi-billion rand arms deal.

While his supporters are busy with last-minute preparations to organise transport to the venue, his family say he is still facing the kind of treatment he did under apartheid.

Zuma’s trial goes ahead after a full bench of the high court on Friday dismissed with costs an appeal by the former president and his co-accused, French arms company Thales, for a permanent stay of prosecution.

Friday’s ruling came 15 years to the day that his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik went on trial for his role in soliciting a bribe for Zuma from Thales.

Shaik was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in jail but was eventually released on medical parole.

Political parties hailed Zuma’s impending trial as a mammoth breakthrough, while the Zuma family criticised it as a “continuation of conspiracy, political prosecution and a ploy to destroy Zuma’s legacy and his image”.

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said the party was at the forefront of the fight to ensure Zuma did not escape accountability “despite his best attempts to interfere with the workings of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)”.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh said this was an opportunity for the new NPA leadership to make “politically protected” leaders account for their involvement in corruption.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Ricardo Mthembu said the party accepted the ruling as the “court should be allowed to exercise their duties”.

He said although the ANC would not send representatives to support Zuma, “as an individual I will go to support my comrade”.

Zuma’s nephew Inkosi Simphiwe, his brother Khaya, and his eldest son Edward, said they were not surprised by the ruling, alleging “there is a concerted effort to destroy anything with Zuma’s name on it”.

Khaya, who lives in Nkandla next to Zuma’s infamous compound, said this meant his brother would always be in court and that even under the apartheid government he was prosecuted and sentenced to 10 years in jail.

“I hate courts. Umfwethu (brother) was subjected to the same treatment by the apartheid regime.

“It seems nothing has changed for him. He had endured so much pain, criticism and hatred by his comrades,” he said.

Simphiwe said he was saddened by the decision to put Zuma on trial. He questioned why the court neglected its previous judgment and evidence.

He was referring to the 2006 ruling by Judge Herbert Msimang who said the State’s case against Zuma “went from one disaster to another” and that it failed to follow proper procedure.

The case was then struck off the court roll, but Zuma was again charged in December 2007. The charges were later dropped by advocate Mokotedi Mpshe in April 2009, citing political interference and manipulation.

Simphiwe said he has lost confidence in the judiciary.

“I wonder what will be new evidence in this case. It was brought before the court and the ruling was made, what has changed now?

“There was compelling evidence that there was a political conspiracy against our brother.

“They wanted to use this case to shut him down but they failed.

“We are now better prepared because we are aware of the plan to destroy everything that is connected to Zuma. We will support him until he stops breathing.”

However, he felt that Zuma should appeal the court’s decision not to give him a permanent stay of prosecution.

Edward said the court’s decision was evidence of the concerted effort to tarnish his father’s “good” name.

“We know the enemies and, sadly, it is people who are comrades from the same organisation that the former president belongs to. However, we are not disturbed by the court’s decision.

“They’ve got the judiciary on their side and are coming out guns blazing after everything that has to do with Zuma,” said Edward.

He said it was surprising that the State would use its resources, millions of rand and time to prove allegations that happened more than a decade ago.

“The State alleges that the former president solicited a bribe of R500000, but how much the State has used to prove that case, doesn’t make sense,” Edward said.

Meanwhile, Simphiwe said although Zuma’s supporters were increasing, there might be fewer in court, because they did not have money to hire buses.

“Our problem is that all financial sources have been shut down. Business people have stopped lending support so that people can be transported,” he said.

KZN member of the legislature Bishop Vusi Dube, who was fundraising for transport, said he was confident there would be a huge turnout in support of Zuma at the court.

Another organiser Nkosentsha Shezi said every zone of the ANC would have buses transporting people to Pietermaritzburg.

Zuma was also expected to appear before the Zondo commission for a second time later this month.

Sunday Tribune