Durban – As tension mounts over seeing Jacob Zuma before the Pietermaritzburg Supreme Court for the first time since his arrest, a fight ensues between the former president’s team and the judiciary.
The former president is currently incarcerated at the Estcourt Correction Center where he is serving a 15-month prison sentence imposed by the Concourt for defying his order to appear before the Zondo Commission.
Zuma is accused of corruption in connection with the 1999 purchase of fighter jets and other military equipment from five international arms companies. He faces 16 charges of fraud, defrauding and extortion for allegedly taking bribes from the arms companies. The French defense company Thales is co-suspect in his case.
On Monday, the court will hear Zuma’s legal team’s request to have the prosecutor withdraw.
In their filing, Zuma’s lawyers argue that National Prosecuting Authority attorney Billy Downer SC cannot lead his prosecution because he is allegedly a corrupted figure who has been influenced by politics and who has allegedly shared information with US spies of the C.I.A.
Downer has denied all allegations.
Zuma wants the NPA to stop his prosecution and have the case thrown out of court, alleging he would not receive a fair trial.
Another point of contention is whether Zuma’s hearing should be virtual and, on the other hand, whether such hearing is constitutionally sound or not.
The Jacob Zuma Foundation last weekend insisted that in a criminal trial, all suspects must be present in court and if not, there must be exceptional circumstances to declare that.
The foundation said the “sensitive” hearing should be suspended if the situation – in this case, South Africa being in the midst of a devastating third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic – does not permit such a hearing.
“The foundation is concerned that the directions of the Pietermaritzburg Supreme Court to hear the case virtually are inconsistent with the provisions of both the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) and the Constitution, as set forth below.
“The matter should be heard physically on July 19 or later, when the country is calmer,” the foundation said on Twitter late Saturday.
The foundation even quoted some articles from the Criminal Procedure Act, which state that criminal cases must be heard in court with all suspects, unless there are exceptional circumstances that prevent this.
Foundation spokesman Mzwanele Manyi said Zuma’s lawyers would legally challenge the directive to have the case heard through virtual platforms.
He added that they want Zuma to be evicted from his Estcourt Correction Center cell to Pietermaritzburg, to be present in court when the application is heard on Monday.
“Yes, it’s a criminal case. Both the constitution and even (the) Criminal Procedure stipulate that,” Manyi told Independent Media on Sunday.
“Remember that lawyers sometimes need to consult the client to verify the veracity of some of the prosecution’s statements. You can’t stop the prosecution and ask for a delay to call your client in Estcourt,” Manyi said.
On Sunday, NPA spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said they knew Zuma and his legal team were against the virtual hearing, and they were willing to oppose it.
“Yesterday (on Sunday), yes, our prosecutors received them. We are still working on our answering statements. We will oppose the application,” Mhaga said yesterday.
Minister of Justice and Judicial Services Ronald Lamola has issued a directive limiting the number of prisoners who go to court in person to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In the published regulations, Lamola laid down the criteria for both in-person and virtual court hearings.