Publication: Sapa Issued: Durban Date: 2005-11-12 Reporter: Stuart Graham

Zuma Sings, Dances after Case Remanded









Stuart Graham


Axed deputy president Jacob Zuma sang and danced with his supporters in Durban on Saturday morning shortly after hearing that his corruption trial would start in the High Court on July 31 next year.

Zuma, who was dressed in a grey suit and blue shirt, was cheered by the large crowd outside of the Durban Magistrate's Court as he started singing the struggle song "Mshini".

According to people in the crowd, the song means "bring my machine" but implies "bring my machine gun".

Speaking in Zulu, Zuma explained the judicial process to the crowd, saying he was going to the high court and would appreciate their continued support.

He also asked for them to be disciplined and not repeat any incidents such as the one at his previous court hearing when people burnt t-shirts showing the face of President Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki fired Zuma following the conviction of Zuma's friend and former financial adviser Schabir Shaik on charges related to a "generally corrupt relationship" between the pair.

Various high profile members of the African National Congress, including secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe, speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete and KwaZulu-Natal premier Sbu Ndebele were in the crowd.

ANC Youth League president Fikile Mbalula and SA Communist Party leader Blade Nzimande were also there.

Earlier a court official formally served Zuma with an indictment outlining the two corruption charges against him.

The case was then remanded to the Durban High Court for trial. The proceedings lasted a little more than two minutes.

The trial is scheduled to end on November 30.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Makhosini Nkosi said no plea bargain offer would be made to Zuma.

"No, we are not going to make the offer," he told journalists inside the court. The offer has to come from one of two parties -- and we are not making it."

However he added: "If the offer is made, we will talk."

Zuma's lawyer Michael Hulley has said that any plea bargain offer would be rejected.

The indictment includes a list of 105 witnesses to testify against Zuma and his co-accused -- Thint Holdings (Southern Africa) Pty Ltd and Thint Pty Ltd. The companies are subsidiaries of a French defence electronics giant.

Thint is accused of offering a R500 000 a year bribe to Zuma in exchange for his silence during an investigation into the country's multi-billion rand arms deal.

Shaik's fraud and corruption conviction, which he is appealing, relates to money given to Zuma, which the court found was a bribe from Thint in exchange for protection during the inquiry into the arms deal.

Shaik said the money was a loan.

Zuma's axing by Mbeki sparked a wave of protests by the ANCYL and the ANC's alliance partners, Cosatu and the SACP.

Witnesses in the trial are expected to include Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille, former president Nelson Mandela's ex-attorney Ismail Ayob, and businessman Richard Young.

Were Zuma to plead guilty and receive a non-custodial sentence, this could theoretically pave the way for him to become the country's next president.

A person is not allowed to hold public office if sentenced to 12 months or more in jail without the option of a fine.

After the court proceedings, Zuma walked outside and waved to his supporters who cheered him on.

Some in the crowd held up bright red banners which read: "Zuma won't get a fair trial."

Many waved the yellow, green and black flag of the ANC. A loud speaker blared out music.

Temporary fences were erected to keep the crowd back and police kept a watchful eye while the supporters, who were in a jovial mood, sang pro-Zuma songs such as "Zuma for president".

Many people had been outside the court since Friday afternoon. They barbecued meat and were entertained by musicians.

Early on Saturday morning some were found asleep on the grass under the trees outside of the court.

Zuma's appearance was moved to Saturday after staff at the court complained about disruptions after his last appearance in October.

Political analysts say that nothing will stop Zuma from becoming the next president of the ANC and possibly the country, if he is acquitted.

With acknowledgements to Graham Stuart and Sapa