The high stakes corruption trial of former President Jacob Zuma and his co-accused, French arms manufacturer Thales will now be heard in December this year.
The new date was announced by the Pietermaritzburg high court on Tuesday in the absence of all parties which are Zuma and his lawyers, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) prosecutors and Thales legal team and a representative who normally flies from France to attend the trial.
Zuma is accused of pocketing millions in bribes from Thales which were allegedly channelled through a business owned by Schabir Shaik, a Durban businessman who in 2005 was convicted for almost similar crimes.
The bribes were allegedly paid to Zuma to secure some lucrative contracts for Thales in the late 1990s when the new democratic ANC government spent billions to buy arms to modernise the South African military on three fronts – land, air and sea.
Zuma has repeatedly denied the charges and said his prosecution is part of a political plot to persecute him. A few days before the matter returned for another hearing which was clear that it was going to be another postponement, all parties agreed not to be present in the high court.
However, that did not sit well with the Jacob Zuma Foundation which lamented the delay and said if courts were fair, they should have struck the case off the roll until the NPA has its house in order.
Announcing the postponement to December on Tuesday, the NPA cited three reasons, among them being Covid-19 restrictions on international travel.
“By agreement, all parties have committed to the provisional postponement of the matter for the resolution of pre-trial management issues namely:
1. Thales’ application for review (to set aside racketeering charges preferred against it).
2. Thales’ application for further particulars from the State
3. Further clarity on the resumption of international travel under the Covid-19 restrictions which affects witnesses and Thales’ representative, from abroad,” said Natasha Kara, the spokesperson of the NPA in KwaZulu-Natal.
While on Monday Thales said it does not comment on ongoing court cases against it, Independent Media understands that its case against the NPA will be heard on October 27 this year.
The state has previously said it wants the corruption trial to get under way from February next year and it has lined up witnesses like minister Patricia de Lille.
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