DURBAN, April 6 (ANA) – Durban’s esplanade was transformed into a sea of yellow on Friday morning as just over 1,000 supporters of former president Jacob Zuma swarmed the Durban High Court precinct while his case was being postponed to June 8 inside courtroom A.
Zuma entered the courthouse under heavy police guard, while outside throngs of backers gathered in support of the “champion of radical economic transformation”, as loyalists have branded him.
Zuma was appearing for a preliminary hearing and is accused number one in a case that relates to the multi-billion rand arms deal, which dates back to 1999. He is facing 16 charges, including fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering, for allegedly receiving bribes from French arms manufacturer Thales and from his former financial adviser, Shabir Shaik.
Thales is accused number two, and was represented by Christine Guirrera, who had flown in from Paris, France and was seated in the dock at least forty minutes before Zuma arrived.
The arms deal secured military equipment for the country’s air, sea and land defence forces at a cost of more than R30 billion. Shaik was found guilty in 2005. He is currently serving a 15 year sentence at his upmarket Durban home on grounds of medical parole.
Advocate Anton Katz, senior counsel (SC), is leading the Thales legal team. He was joined by instructing attorney Robert Driman and junior counsel Mushadih Adhakari.
Zuma was represented by advocate Hoosen Gani, while his long-time attorney, Michael Hulley, was also present. Hulley has stuck with the embattled former president for more than a decade. Advocate Kemp J Kemp was not at court but remains Zuma’s senior counsel, according to Gani. African News Agency was told the seasoned silk was on holiday and so could not attend the proceedings.
Veteran state advocate Billy Downer – deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the Western Cape – will lead the prosecution team.
Working alongside Downer will be KwaZulu-Natal DPP advocate Moipone Noko, Eastern Cape DPP Lungi Mahlati, Bloemfontein regional head advocate Alinicia Coetzee and senior deputy DPP, advocate Raymond Mathunjwa. Only Downer, Coetzee and Mathunjwa were present in court.
Downer was part of the original team that prosecuted Shaik in 2005.
The court heard that a mutually agreed on postponement was being sought, with the next appearance provisionally set down for June 8. The postponement was needed as Zuma wanted to bring a review application of the case, according to Downer and Gani.
“The review papers [should be] finalised by 15 May. Depending on the result, there may be further applications for a permanent stay of prosecution,” said Downer. Thales also wanted to make representations to the DPP, he said.
A trial date could be set down for November 12, said Downer. But Gani said that would depend on what transpired in the interim.
“We will be filing an application to challenge the legitimacy of the prosecution,” said Gani.
Sishi granted the postponement to June 8 and told Zuma and Guirrera that they were released on warning.
The country’s head prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, decided to reinstate charges against Zuma last month. “I am of the view that there are reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution of Mr Zuma on the charges listed in the indictment,” Abrahams said at the time.
The reinstatement came after charges were dropped in 2009, which led to years of back and forth court action, led by the official opposition party the Democratic Alliance, and delays as Zuma – who had always maintained he wanted his day in court to prove his innocence – appeared to deliberately evade facing prosecution.
Judge Themba Sishi on Friday agreed to a postponement of former president Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial to June 8, in the Durban High Court.
“This matter is adjourned to the 8th of June, 2018, which is a provisional date and the two accused before court, having been summoned to appear before this court, are released on warning,” Sishi said.
Earlier, senior State prosecutor Billy Downer told the court the reason for the adjournment was “twofold” — Zuma wanted to firstly bring a review application and hoped to finalise the review papers by May 15. Zuma may also apply for a stay of prosecution, said Downer.
Accused number two, arms manufacturer Thales South Africa also intended to make representations to the National Director of Public Prosecutions on why it should not be prosecuted.
Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering an racketeering involving 783 illicit payments related to South Africa’s controversial arms deal.