Decision on Zuma graft trial out today

Jacob Zuma will be hoping he wins a stay of prosecution in his corruption case related to the Arms Deal./Alaister Russell
Jacob Zuma will be hoping he wins a stay of prosecution in his corruption case related to the Arms Deal./Alaister Russell

Former president Jacob Zuma will today face the most potentially devastating ruling against him: a judgment on whether he will go on trial for Arms Deal-related corruption.

Three judges in the Pietermaritzburg High Court will rule on Zuma's claims that the case against him has been fatally tainted by undue delay and political interference, and must be permanently stayed.

The decision, should it go against him, will be devastating. He has already lost state funding of his defence costs and has himself stated that he will be forced to sell his socks to pay legal bills.

The criminal case against him, should it proceed, is expected to go on for at least a year and will be exceedingly expensive for him to defend.

Zuma is currently the subject of multiple court orders that compel him to repay an estimated R26m in legal costs and under threat of losing his Nkandla homestead if he fails to repay his VBS bond.

Should Zuma be convicted of the corruption, racketeering, fraud and tax evasion charges against him, which relate to his allegedly corrupt relationship with his former financial advisor Schabir Shaik and accusations that he accepted a R500,000-a-year bribe from French arms company Thales, he faces the prospect of a 25-year jail term.

Zuma contends that the events that led to his prosecution took place in the late 90s and early 2000s, and that he can't remember many of the things that will be pivotal to him defending himself.

This, he argues, can lead to him having an unfair trial.

He also maintains he has been victimised and abused by the National Prosecuting Authority, which he says should have put him on trial with Shaik in 2003, and is responsible for undue and inexcusable delays in his trial. Shaik was convicted of corrupting Zuma in 2005.

The state contends it is Zuma who is responsible for many of the delays he now complains about.

Zuma also alleges his prosecution was politically motivated and designed to thwart his ambitions to lead the ANC.

The case against him was dropped in 2009 when then acting national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe decided that the so-called spy tape recordings, which captured then current and former prosecutions bosses Bulelani Ngcuka and Leonard McCarthy discussing when Zuma should be charged, showed that there had been political interference in his prosecution.

That decision was overturned in court years later.

The state now says Mpshe was clearly wrong and insists Zuma must face the charges against him. It argues that the consequences of him not standing trial will be devastating to the principle of equality before the law.

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