The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
Zuma is no stranger to evading the law as his latest stunt at the Zondo Commission proved. Instead of waiting to hear the next steps on his recusal application, which was dismissed, he and his lawyers abruptly walked out. A complaint would be lodged with the Judicial Service Commission against Judge Ray Zondo as they believe he played both witness and judge in their request for recusal. As Zuma delays the commission’s work, which is expected to complete its findings and review the evidence from the 257-plus witnesses it has called to date, it is worth noting that he has frustrated the justice system before. – Bernice Maune.
Timeline of charges against Zuma – and where SA is in holding him to account
Arms deal corruption trial
In August 2003, then National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Bulelani Ngcuka said there was a prima facie case of corruption against Zuma. The timing of Ngcuka’s announcement was pertinent as the ANC was four years away from its elective conference. It’s also the reason why his announcement was subject to scrutiny as Zuma’s supporters alleged it was a ploy to devastate his political career. While Zuma was fired from his deputy president position and replaced with Kgalema Motlanthe, his court woes had just begun.
The corruption case tabled by the NPA was founded in allegations of bribery, corruption and influence on state contracts won by French military company, Thales. It won contracts to supply South Africa with military equipment and craft that would be used for the Navy, for the South African National Defence Force.
The allegation is that Zuma took bribes amounting to probably close to about six, seven hundred thousand and at the time, he then influenced those bids. Which is how Thales was able to receive contracts worth billions of rand. For their contracts, they allegedly bribed Zuma through his advisor at the time, Shabir Shaik.
Shaik’s company, Nkobi Holdings, was the black economic empowerment partner on the arms deal bids. He was accused of negotiating a R500 000 annual bribe for Zuma and gave him money and favours 783 times over a ten year period.
In June 2005, Sheik was found guilty on two counts of corruption and one count of fraud. He was sentenced to more than 15 years in jail but was later released on medical parole in March 2009 after serving two years and four months of his sentence.
A political pariah with enough backing
By September 2006, the late KwaZulu-Natal judge president Judge Herbert Qedusizi Msimang threw Zuma’s corruption case out of court. He slammed the NPA for not following the right legal procedures in charging Zuma. A year later, The Scorpions would serve Zuma with an indictment to stand trial on various counts of racketeering, money laundering, corruption, and fraud related to the arms deal. Zuma had just defeated Mbeki at the Polokwane elective conference.
Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Chris Nicholson issued a ruling in Zuma’s favour, saying there was no reason for him to not have made presentations to the NPA before being charged. Nicholson also paved the way for the ANC to recall Mbeki by stating there was political influence behind Zuma’s charges.
The Supreme Court of Appeal moved to overturn Nicholson’s ruling, reinstating Zuma’s charges. This happened in early 2009. By April 2009, former acting head of the NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe, withdrew all corruption charges against Zuma. At the centre of the withdrawal of the charges are the spy tapes, a set of recordings between NPA bosses discussing how charging Zuma would enable Mbeki to win Polokwane.
Charges reinstated again
In April 2016, the North Gauteng High Court ordered that the charges against Zuma be brought back, as it was irrational to drop all of them. This decision was made after the Democratic Alliance attained access to the spy tapes after years. Zuma took his legal battle to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) which upheld the High Court ruling to charge Zuma.
Zuma’s attorneys, led by Michael Hulley, were advised they could make representations to former NPA boss Shaun Abrahams. From April 2018 to November 2019 Zuma is in and out of the Pietermaritzburg High Court where he eventually applies for a stay of prosecution. Though it is not granted, the former president’s illness delay proceedings again.
Warrant of arrest issued
The Pietermaritzburg High Court on 4 February 2020 issued an arrest warrant for Zuma after he missed court proceedings because of his declining health. By June 2020, the warrant of arrest for Zuma was cancelled by the Pietermaritzburg High Court. This after Zuma’s legal team provided sufficient evidence showing he was ill in February when he failed to appear in court. Zuma had provided enough evidence to prove his sickness and visit to Cuba for treatment.
December 8 set aside for court case
Recently, the delay for the corruption trial to begin has been from Thales because quite recently it has asked to take the court case on review because it needs more information to develop its case. It has requested to be furnished with all the evidence related to the case so that it can present a solid case. It has also asked what are the rules and regulations are around international travel, with lockdown and Covid-19 having affected international travel.
A new date has been set for 8 December, and this is when the case finally needs to be heard. Seventeen years later Zuma is set to account for his actions.
Since Nicholson’s ruling that there was political interference in Zuma’s original charge sheet, the ANC veteran has often argued that he will not receive a fair trial. He has made statements about the judiciary being influenced to ensure he doesn’t win any of his cases. Though there isn’t any legal basis to his political conspiracy theories, Zuma remains adamant he is innocent and hasn’t accepted any bribes.
As his day in court draws near, he also has to contend with the Zondo commission possibly making adverse findings against him for showing contempt, obstructing their legal work and for his refusal to comply and issue responding affidavits. It is likely the commission will recommend that he is charged for state capture, fraud and corruption as he failed to give his side of the story.
- Terry Crawford-Browne: ‘To fight corruption, Ramaphosa must start with the arms deal’
- Andrew Feinstein on how Arms Deals finance political parties (ANC included)
- Zuma’s conviction prospects examined by Pierre de Vos
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.