Former president Jacob Zuma and French arms company Thales were back in court on Wednesday (May 25) to face criminal charges.
Zuma was represented by advocates Dali Mpofu SC and Thabani Masuku SC, and Thales by Samantha Jackson.
The court was previously adjourned so that Zuma’s counsel could serve the special plea under Section 106(1)(h) of the Criminal Procedures Act that state prosecutor Billy Downer recuse himself.
Downer informed the court that he had received the “voluminous” plea together with annexures a weeks ago, consisting of more than 1 000 pages.
The plea covers the entire period of the litigation, some 16 years.
The state needs time to answer by affidavit, and counsel has been instructed. As Downer is the subject he cannot do it himself.
Zuma’s papers were also not complete, and his counsel has been presented with a list indicating where the papers are incomplete.
The parties agreed that the plea would be heard on July 19.
Downer submitted two certificates to the court:
- The centralisation certificate authorising the centralisation of offences to the jurisdiction of the Gauteng High Court.
- The racketeering authorisation certificate authorising crimes committed under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca) from 1995 to 2005 to be put to the accused.
Downer put the criminal charges to Zuma and Thales, which include:
- Zuma and Thales are accused of participating in an organised criminal enterprise between 1995 and 2004 and for conducting an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activities in contravention of Poca.
- Zuma is accused of corruption for unlawfully accepting payments and benefits from Schabir Shaik, his former “financial advisor”, to further the business interests of Shaik. Between 1995 and 2005 Zuma received 783 payments and benefits of R4.01 million from Shaik. Schaik was jailed in 2006 for soliciting bribes for Zuma from then Thomson-CSF, now renamed Thales.
- Zuma and Thales are accused of accepting/paying bribes and gratifications, by covert means, and acting in a manner that is illegal, dishonest, and/or biased in carrying out functions, and have contravened the Corruption Act, and its replacement, the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (Precca) and Poca.
- Zuma and Thales are accused of money laundering.
- Zuma is accused of fraud for failing to declare financial interests to parliament, and lied to parliament in claiming that he had received no benefits, nor sponsorships. He also failed to reveal the identity of the parties providing him with benefits and bribes.
- Zuma is accused of tax evasion and fraud, as he failed to disclose all income earned by him and made false representations in this regard.
- Zuma is accused of corruption for receiving annual payments of R500 000 from Thales, and of money laundering as the source of the payments was disguised. And Thales is accused for the same crimes as the payer.
- Zuma is accused of fraud for falsely claiming to parliamentarian Raenette Taljaard and to parliament that he had not met with Shaik and Alain Thetard of Thales.
Mpofu reads a statement in regard to the plea
Mpofu asked Judge Piet Koen for leave to read a statement in regard to Zuma’s “special plea”, stating that Zuma’s trial will be unfair.
Koen replied that he did not want to hear matters that have previously been ventilated, saying “it will not serve much purpose to ventilate it today”.
Mpofu commenced his reading, noting that it has been a long road to get here, and that the intention is to place as much of Zuma’s affidavit in the court record as possible. Zuma has the right to a fair trial, and this must be respected by the state.
Mpofu then turned his attention to Downer, accusing Downer of:
- Having assisted a political party, the DA, and that the DA is “hostile” towards Zuma. Mpofu also informed the court that Downer had breached the United Nations guidance on the role of prosecutors.
- Enabling unlawful political interference in Zuma’s trial, and that the integrity of the prosecution process has been corrupted. Downer has demonstrated his lack of ensuring that Zuma is treated with impartiality.
- Turning the Zuma prosecution into a personal legacy, Downer has lost his independence and impartiality, and no one has been prosecuted for damaging media leaks.
- Having presented evidence against Shaik in his trial, and that this was a “trial run” against Zuma. Mpofu said that this demonstrates “Downer’s prejudice”, which will impact Zuma’s constitutional rights.
- Having been in “relentless pursuit of this trial”, being in cohorts with “foreign intelligence agencies” and “should be removed”.
Koen interrupted and said the three pillars of the special plea are the National Prosecuting Authority affidavit, connivance with journalists, and connivance with foreign intelligence agencies. He said the purpose of Mpofu’s statement is to sketch the basis of the plea, and that affidavits must still be exchanged, “the purpose of you addressing me has been fulfilled”.
At this point Mpofu said he would like to address Koen in his chambers. Koen replied that the process must be transparent and dealt with in open court.
Masuku – ‘bear with us’
Masuku requested leave from Koen to “bear with us for 30 minutes”, as it is “important that you understand the basis of the plea”.
Masuku explained that Zuma as a political leader with a significant constitutionality, and that the public must know why he is in court, “even if it means that it is a repetition of what my learned friend [Mpofu] said”.
Koen said he understood that Zuma’s plea “is tied up with political considerations”.
Masuku alerted the court to the unlawful activities and interference by “foreign intelligence agencies”.
Zuma alleged that Leonard McCarthy, who in 2003 headed up the disbanded Directorate of Special Prosecutions (Scorpions), concocted the Shaik trial for political ends, to get at Zuma.
He also alleged that McCarthy is a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative.
Regarding McCarthy’s investigations, he said it was a criminal offence not to have revealed this.
Koen eventually interrupted and said that Masuku wasn’t adding much to the discussion for present purposes and that matters can be well ventilated on July 19.
Thales and Zuma denied guilt on all charges.
The following timetable was made an order of court
The state will deliver its affidavit on June 2;
Zuma’s replying affidavit will be delivered on the June 9;
Zuma’s heads of argument is due on July 5;
The state’s heads of argument is due on July 12; and
The hearing of the special plea is set for July 19.