An exchange of words has erupted between the state and the Jacob Zuma Foundation over the former president’s case, which is due back in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, on Tuesday.
The verbal tussle follows a statement issued by the Foundation, giving an impression that the matter had been postponed.
“We have noted that state, without stating a reason, has now said it will be ready to start with the criminal trial on 17 May 2021. This is not the first time such a promise is made, while we the Foundation doubt the bona fides or readiness of the state to ever run this case, we hope our judiciary will not tolerate any further postponement beyond this date,” charged the Foundation.
It said it would continue to push for the case to be struck off the roll until the state is ready to prosecute, instead of parading the former president as a criminal while wasting the taxpayers’ money.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has hit back, refuting the postponement claims.
Spokesperson Sipho Ngwema says it is disingenuous for the Foundation to pretend that the trial was set down for Tuesday.
“This Tuesday, February 23 was never a trial date but for the parties to resolve outstanding pre-trial management issues and agree on a trial date, among other housekeeping issues,” it says in a statement.
The state says it is ready for trial and its preferred date and that of the French arms company Thales’ defence team is May 17.
Thales’s South African subsidiary Thint won a R2.6-billion contract in to fit four new navy frigates with combat suites, as part of the 1999 Strategic Defence Procurement Package, known as the Arms Deal.
The company is in the dock with Zuma for racketeering. It allegedly bankrolled the former president, through his then financial adviser Shabir Shaik, for political support to clinch the deal and for protection from scrutiny.
“The actual date of trial will be determined by the court taking into account its court roll – and availability of the state and the two defence teams,” says Ngwema.
Zuma faces charges of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering, and more than 10 counts of fraud relating to 783 payments he allegedly received in connection with the controversial arms deal.
It is not the first time his foundation accuses the NPA of delaying tactics. Last September, it berated the prosecuting authority for a delay in the matter, saying while the media accused Zuma of delaying tactics – it was actually the NPA that wasn’t ready to proceed.