Arms deal: Zuma says he’s being used as a scapegoat, drags Mbeki into case

Image credit: Flickr/GovernmentZA

Former President Jacob Zuma has claimed in court papers that he’s being used as a scapegoat in the arms deal matter.

Zuma has approached the Supreme Court of Appeal after the Pietermaritzburg High Court dismissed his application for a permanent stay of prosecution in his corruption trial related to the arms deal.

In his papers, he claims the state would have investigated those “closer to decision-making” in the matter, including former President Thabo Mbeki, if it was “genuine.”

‘Reasonable prospects of success’

Zuma believes his appeal “bears more than a reasonable prospect of success” and the Supreme Court of Appeal should therefore hear it.

He said, “I had nothing to do with the arms deal. I had no government position that would have made me a participant in the selection of bidders in this regard.

“It is not me that decided that the Special Investigating Unit not investigate certain matters in relation to the arms deal.”

Zuma contends that his corruption trial is tainted by political interference, citing former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Bulelani Ngcuka’s decision not to put him on trial with his former financial advisor Schabir Shaik. He claims this decision was “legally wrong.”

State’s case against Zuma

The state claims Zuma had a corrupt relationship with Shaik, who paid him a retainer in exchange for promotion of his business interests.

Shaik was convicted in 2005 for corrupting Zuma. In that case, the state successfully argued that he had facilitated a R500,000-a-year bribe for Zuma from French arms group Thales.

The state further argued that in return, Zuma was to offer Thales “political protection” from investigation into the arms deal.

It used a letter, which Zuma signed in 2001, to Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) to argue its case.

In the letter, Zuma reportedly told Scopa that it was unnecessary to conduct further investigations into the arms deal.

However, Zuma contends that although he signed the letter, Mbeki and a set of ministers tasked with resolving the arms deal controversy actually wrote it.

Thales won a R2.6 billion contract to supply frigates to the South African government as part of broader R60 billion 1997 arms deal.

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