Former President Jacob Zuma says he should be acquitted of corruption charges related to the arms deal, claiming that state advocate Billy Downer lacks impartiality and independence to present evidence against him.
He made the argument in an affidavit filed at the Pietermaritzburg high court this week.
His was responding to Downer’s affidavit against his “special plea” application, which questioned the “title” of Downer as the lead prosecutor in the case.
Downer had argued that Zuma’s application was “ludicrous” because even if it succeeds, it would only lead to his recusal as the lead prosecutor, not Zuma’s acquittal.
However, Zuma maintained that the state has lost “constitutional legitimacy” to prosecute him, thereby fundamentally violating his rights to a fair trial.
“I must therefore be acquitted because there is no evidence that the state may lawfully present in a court for me to answer as a consequence of the state losing title to prosecute,” he argued.
Case against Zuma
The state accuses the ex-President of receiving more than R4 million in bribes and benefits from Schabir Shaik, his former financial advisor.
Shaik was himself convicted and sentenced for arranging a R500,000-a-year payment from French arms company Thales on behalf of Zuma for “political protection” from a potential investigation into its role the arms deal. Zuma was Deputy President at the time.
Thales is Zuma’s co-accused in the matter, which finally went to trial in May after years of court battles and representations to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Both pleaded not guilty.
The trial was postponed to 19 July 2021 to allow the state to respond to Zuma’s special plea. The NPA appointed Advocates Wim Trengove SC, Andrew Breitenbach SC, Hephzibah Rajah and Thembelani Mayosi to argue against the plea.
Zuma has steadfastly maintained that his prosecution is tainted by political interference and undue delay. The courts have however previously dismissed these arguments.
As has become standard practice, his court appearance in July will likely attract large crowds of his supporters and claims of his political persecution will likely be rehashed.