The precinct around the Pietermaritzburg high court was buzzing with police on Monday morning before the start of former president Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial, with his children Duduzane and Duduzile demonstrating their support.
By 8am, Zuma’s son Duduzane and Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) spokesperson Carl Niehaus had arrived at court to support the former president.
Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and ANC NEC member Tony Yengeni were also seen at court.
Zuma had entered the dock by 10am. His defence team is led by advocate Thabani Masuku.
While the state is ready to proceed with the trial and its first witness, public works minister Patricia de Lille, is available to testify, the proceedings are likely to be adjourned as Zuma’s new legal team will have to familiarise itself with the matter.
De Lille has arrived at the court too.
Last month instructing attorney Eric Mabuza filed a notice of withdrawal from the case but did not provide reasons. The withdrawal will include advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, who had fiercely argued for Zuma in court before the trial.
In the past Zuma’s defence team was accused of adopting a “Stalingrad approach” by launching many court applications to delay the start of the corruption trial, while the state has always said it was ready to proceed.
In 2007, Zuma’s then advocate Kemp J Kemp told the Durban High Court: “We have adopted a Stalingrad strategy in response to this prosecution. We will fight [the state] in every street, in every house, and in every room.”
Since then, under the instruction of Zuma’s long-time attorney Michael Hulley, his defence team tried every possible legal avenue to prevent him from being prosecuted.
Wishing you all of the best @PresJGZuma in PMB tomorrow. The long awaited trial begins. Thanks to Adv Masuku SC, leading the team. Thanks to Mr Thusini and the rest of the team. Please be deaf like my father to criticism. You have our support. In God we Trust. Qhude manikiniki pic.twitter.com/kyyVS9p76O
— Dudu Zuma-Sambudla (@DZumaSambudla) May 16, 2021
Zuma is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500,000 from French arms dealer Thales for protection from an investigation into the controversial arms deal.
The alleged bribe was facilitated by Schabir Shaik, who was Zuma’s former financial adviser.
By Nivashni Nair-TimesLIVE