It was a case of déjà vu on Friday morning when former president Jacob Zuma addressed crowds of his supporters outside the Durban High Court, following his brief appearance in relation to corruption charges reinstated against him by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) earlier this year.
The case against him, he said, should be dropped as there’s no basis for it. Zuma faces 16 charges, two of which are for corruption, relating to his alleged pocketing of millions linked to the government’s arms deal in 1999, and handled by his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik.
He emerged from the court building about 30 minutes after Judge Themba Sishi adjourned the case until 27 July. He also said it will be heard in Pietermaritzburg and not Durban, owing to the need for more space to accommodate members of the public and the media. The postponement was to give Zuma’s legal team a chance to finalise a separate matter relating to the funding of his defence by the state. The state’s lead advocate Billy Downer expressed his team’s readiness to prosecute in November.
A request by Zuma’s lawyers to the NPA to have the decision of reinstatement of charges reviewed was also recently denied.
Zuma was met by loud cheering and singing from the crowd as he walked out of the court area, flanked by former minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs Des van Rooyen, former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and former premier of the North West, Supra Mahumapelo. His address was preceded by declarations of support from representatives of the ANC in the different provinces.
When he did eventually address supporters, Zuma had this to say: “We will not dispute the case if it does indeed make it in court, but we urge that it be handled in a justified manner.”
He bemoaned, as he did following the April court appearance, the political agenda that is behind his charges being reinstated. “I’m not afraid of anything … Judge Nicholson said years ago that this case is just about politics.” He was referring to a comment by Judge Chris Nicholson who, in 2008 ruled that then president Thabo Mbeki had interfered in a previous case against Zuma.
However, Nicholson’s judgment was scornfully set aside by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) just four months later, with the five-member SCA bench unanimously agreeing that Nicholson was wrong.
NPA head Shaun Abrahams announced on 16 March that the charges against Zuma – formerly dropped by then acting head Mokotedi Mpshe in 2009 – would be reinstated. Mpshe had cited political interference in the investigation into Zuma, as the reason for the charges being dropped.
Abrahams said the charges are as such: one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud. He was of the view that there are reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution of Zuma.