Veteran State advocate Billy Downer said on Friday that the State was ready to proceed with the fraud and corruption case against former president Jacob Zuma, but that the defence needed to “get its house in order”.
“The State is ready, the defence is not ready,” said Downer, as Zuma and co-accused Thales – represented by Christine Guerrier – made their second appearance at the Durban High Court on Friday.
Zuma is accused number one in a case that relates to the multi-billion rand arms deal dating back to 1999. He is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud.
Thales is accused number two and is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption and one count of money laundering.
On Thursday, Thales made representations to the NPA to have charges against the company withdrawn. Downer said that the representations had been received, but the State had not had ample time to review the papers and make a decision by Friday.
“We hoped it would have been brought in sufficient time so we could answer today. Representations were only received yesterday (on Thursday), so the State can’t provide an answer as to if the charges will be withdrawn,” said Downer.
Thales had, he said, kept the State abreast of happenings.
Downer was less generous with Zuma’s defence team, represented in court by the former president’s long-term lawyer and friend Michael Hulley.
He said that at the first appearance on April 6, the case was specifically postponed for Thales to make representations and for Zuma’s legal team to bring a review application.
“The State has not received an application for review from Mr Hulley and we are disappointed that that is the case. The postponement was granted for a review and there was none,” he said.
The State was ready to go to trial, he said, and November 12 was still available as a potential trial date.
He said the parties agreed to postpone proceedings to a holding date of July 27 for the next appearance. The matter would be moved to the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
In the interim, Zuma’s defence had an opportunity to “get its house in order”, said Downer. The State would also use the time to review and respond to Thales’ request for charges to be withdrawn.
In response, Hulley told Judge Mjabuliseni Madondo that he did not mean any disrespect to the court.
“The matter on 6 April [first appearance] and representations and submissions were to give the court assurance the applications would be made by Mr Zuma,” said Hulley.
He said there were still “circumstances” surrounding Zuma’s funding that needed to be addressed.
The former president believes the State must pay his legal fees, while the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Democratic Alliance (DA) have taken the matter to court seeking to set aside State funding arrangements.
“By 27 July we will obtain clarity around funding and be able to map out a timetable with the prosecution,” said Hulley. He said he had written to the presidency seeking clarity on where that office stood on the matter and was awaiting a response.
Zuma was also still seeking to pursue the review application, he said. Guerrier was excused from appearing on July 27 and both she and Zuma were again released on warning.
Zuma was greeted by a crowd of supporters at court, with many of them dressed in ANC regalia.Some wanted to enter the courthouse but were stopped by police.
“Tell us what Zuma has done,” one man in the crowd shouted.
Zuma supporters, among them a number of organisations such as Black First Land First (BLF), Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), the National Funeral Practitioners Association of South Africa, various bodies under the National Interfaith Churches of South Africa (NICSA) and the Commission for Religious Affairs (CRA), staged a rally after the court proceedings.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has alleged there was an illegal “common purpose” relationship between Zuma, his convicted financial advisor Shabir Shaik and Thales South Africa (Pty) Ltd to pay and accept bribes for “political protection”.
Zuma held several high-ranking offices in the provincial and national executive and in the ANC at the times of the alleged bribes. But he has been consistent in maintaining his innocence, while also stating that he wants to clear his name in court.
Supporters claim he is being “persecuted” because he is and was pro-poor during his almost 10-year presidential term and took a stand against a western capitalist agenda.