Criminal proceedings against Jacob Zuma ‘won’t go ahead on Tuesday’

Former president Jacob Zuma’s lawyer says he is ready to face his criminal trial.
Picture: File

The criminal matter against former president Jacob Zuma will not go ahead as scheduled in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Tuesday.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed that the matter was postponed by consensual agreement. In June the matter was adjourned to September 8 as a holding date.

The NPA planned to issue a statement on Monday afternoon. Zuma’s lawyer Eric Mabuza told TimesLIVE that a new date for the matter was in December.

“The state is not ready,” he said.

At Zuma’s last appearance in June, defence advocate Muzi Sikhakhane told the court that the former president’s legal team was ready for the trial to start in October, while state prosecutor advocate Billy Downer had argued that the trial could not be set down for 2020 as many circumstances, including a request for further particulars and the Covid-19 pandemic would delay proceedings.

In the past, Zuma’s former defence team was accused of adopting a “Stalingrad approach” by launching numerous court applications to delay the start of his corruption trial, while the state has always said it was ready to proceed.

Sikhakhane told the court that Downer kept shifting the goalposts when he had stated no less than seven times since 2018, when the charges were reinstated against Zuma, that the state was ready to proceed.

However Downer argued that the state was made to look like the “bad boy” when the defence had only requested further particulars on June 19.

He said the proceedings began in 2006 yet Zuma’s team only started to debate the merits of the case now.

Downer explained that he could not commit to a pretrial certification date in August as the Covid-19 outbreak had even delayed the request for further particulars.

The forensic team working on the matter was quarantined for 14 days.

Downer added that the state could also not commit to a trial date in October as it had many international witnesses on its witness list and there was uncertainty on when travel bans due to Covid-19 would be lifted.

Zuma is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500,000 from Thales for protection from an investigation into the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal.

The alleged bribe was facilitated by Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik.

By Nivashni Nair – TimesLIVE

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