Former President Jacob Zuma has “parted ways” with his defence attorney Daniel Mantsha, the Jacob Zuma Foundation announced in a statement on Sunday.
The Foundation said Zuma had appointed prominent advocate Eric Mabuza to replace Mantsha, who had been acting for Zuma since 2018.
The ex-President has also asked advocate Muzi Sikhakhane to assemble a multi-skilled legal team that will advise and assist him in “preparing for the biggest trial of his life,” it added.
‘In Zuma’s best interests’
Zuma is set to appear at the Pietermaritzburg high court on 6 May for his corruption trial, which is linked to the infamous arms deal of the late 1990s.
Mantsha presented a medical note to the court in February as proof that Zuma was too ill to attend. However, the court doubted its veracity and issued a suspended warrant of arrest against the former President. It’s unclear whether this is the reason for Mantsha’s firing.
The Foundation thanked him for his services, but said Zuma had “unfortunately come to the conclusion that it is in his best interests to part ways with Mr Mantsha at this stage so that he can focus more on the preparation for the trial.”
It said the upcoming trial will provide an opportunity for South Africans to get “much-needed certainty about the bona fides of the State’s case against [Zuma] as well as shed light on who exactly benefited from the alleged Arms Deal corruption.”
The Foundation added, “[Zuma’s legal team will] dispel the much-repeated and tired narrative that seeks to suggest that in previously exercising his rights, former President Zuma sought to avoid his day in court or was adopting what the state calls Stalingrad tactics.
“To this end, Sikhakhane SC and his team will also be advising and assisting former President Zuma to decisively deal with the long-standing speculation about his involvement in Arms Deal corruption.”
The trial dates back to 2005. The state claims Zuma had a corrupt relationship with his former financial advisor Schabir Shaik, who was convicted in 2005 for corrupting him.
In that case, the state successfully argued that Shaik 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. The former president has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.
In early March, the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed Zuma’s bid to appeal Pietermaritzburg high court’s ruling that quashed his application for a permanent stay of prosecution.