Former president Jacob Zuma’s legal team has called for the country to be patient as he prepares for the arms deal trial, during which “everything” will be laid bare.
Zuma and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have agreed to postpone his appearance at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on arms deal-related charges until June, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This week, Zuma came out guns blazing, saying he was ready for the trial and wanted to expose those who benefited from the country’s multibillion-rand acquisition of military projects in 1999, formally called the strategic defence package.
Eric Mabuza, who recently joined Zuma’s legal team, confirmed that the matter had been postponed until June.
Zuma was set to appear in court on Wednesday for pre-trial matters.
The court had issued a warrant of arrest to secure the appearance of the former president after he failed to pitch on February 4.
The lead prosecutor of the case, advocate Billy Downer, had said Zuma would be quizzed by the court on why he did not attend, and that he could be criminally charged if his answer was unsatisfactory.
Zuma is facing one count of money laundering, one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption and 12 counts of fraud for allegedly receiving a bribe from French arms company Thales via his former financial adviser Shabir Shaik. Mabuza called for patience on the matter of the Zuma trial.
“We have agreed to postpone. We must all be patient and wait for the trial, where everything will be revealed,” he told Sunday World.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said they were happy the matter was finally going to trial. NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke referred questions to the prosecutorial body’s KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson, Natasha Kara, who had not responded to written questions by the time of going to press.
Last month, the Supreme Court of Appeal rejected Zuma’s bid to appeal against a decision of the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal that he should stand trial for corruption, a decision that saw him petitioning the Constitutional Court.
On Wednesday, Zuma said he had withdrawn the Constitutional Court challenge, paving the way for him to prepare for trial and “demonstrate that he has never benefited from the arms deal corruption or tried to evade trial”.
“I hope that our citizens will finally get some certainty and closure as to the real beneficiaries of the arms deal if any corruption in that regard did occur,” Zuma said.