Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2006-05-12 Reporter: Mariette le Roux Reporter: Sapa

Zuma's Lawyer Asks for Speedy Corruption Trial



Mail and Guardian




Mariette le Roux, Sapa

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Reiterating claims of a political conspiracy, Jacob Zuma's lawyer argued on Friday for his client's corruption trial to be concluded speedily to avoid harming his political aspirations.

"It would certainly be extremely detrimental to his prospects of occupying a leadership role in the ANC [African National Congress] should the corruption proceedings not be finalised by then," attorney Michael Hulley said in an affidavit, referring to the scheduled election of ruling party office-bearers next year.

This applies equally to Zuma's position in the government, states the affidavit, filed in support of an application by arms company Thint for immediate further particulars on the corruption charges it is to face alongside the former deputy president.

"All delays are essentially harmful to Zuma and advantages [sic] to his political opponents."

Hulley said charging Zuma was a very significant step, changing his status to that of an accused person and resulting in his dismissal by President Thabo Mbeki.

There is still widespread political support for Zuma playing a significant role in the governance of the country, the affidavit reads.

It is also "well-established" that there are two camps in the political sphere: pro- and anti-Zuma.

"In a recent trial wherein Zuma stood accused of rape, the complainant stated that she was well aware that the allegations she had made would become part of the political conspiracy against Zuma," Hulley said.

"Zuma himself testified that his opponents are conspiring to preclude him from playing a meaningful role in the ANC structures and the national government."

An example, Hulley said, was former national prosecutions head Bulelani Ngcuka "holding a secret meeting with some editors to set up an arrangement to try him through the media in respect of the corruption trial".

Zuma has the right to a speedy trial.

"A five-year plus investigation plus a dummy run, an alleged mirror charge of [Schabir Shaik, his former financial adviser], plus a year between charges and trial, constitute sufficient opportunity.

"Conduct designed to frustrate the completion of the trial with due expedition should not be tolerated."

The application by Thint and Thint Holdings, accused numbers two and three in the pending corruption trial, lists Zuma as an interested party.

The companies claim the absence of further particulars is hampering their ability to prepare for the trial, due to kick off on July 31.

Their application was heard in the Durban High Court on Friday. Judgement was reserved, and is likely to be delivered next week, said prosecuting advocate Anton Steynberg.

The state contends it is unable to provide Thint with further particulars until it has finalised the indictment. This it can only do once litigation brought by the applicants, contesting the legality of search warrants used to obtain evidence in the case, is finalised.

To complete the final indictment, the prosecution needs clarity on what evidence it can rely on.

Provisional indictments have been served on Thint and Zuma, it said.

Hulley claimed unfamiliarity with the concept of a provisional charge sheet, saying he believed the indictment served was the final one. Like any other indictment, it could be amended within the permissible legal parameters.

He said it had been agreed that the prosecution would seek to amend the indictment by the end of March this year, enabling the parties to prepare adequately.

"The end of March and, indeed, April has come and gone without any amendment to the indictment. It is the defence's contention that as between Zuma and the prosecution the battle lines have been spelled out and finalised."

Zuma, acquitted of rape this week, has been charged in line with a high court finding that he had a "generally corrupt" relationship with his former financial adviser, Shaik.

The two Thint companies are South African subsidiaries of French arms dealer Thales, and stand accused of offering Zuma a R500 000-a-year bribe in exchange for his silence during a probe into the country's multibillion-rand arms acquisition.

In convicting Shaik, the Durban High Court found last year the money had been a bribe. Shaik is taking the verdict on appeal.

In its heads of argument, the state accused the applicants of seeking to force it to go to trial with a provisional indictment, based on the state of the investigation as at September 2002.

"It simply makes no sense to insist on further particulars on an indictment that is almost certainly going to be substantially amended."

It denied drawing out the legal process.

The scope of its investigation, which started in 2000, was broadened to include Zuma only in October 2002, while some of the offences under the microscope are alleged to have continued until "at least 2005".

"In this sense, the investigation is not old, and it has not taken too long."

It rejected the applicant's accusation of mala fides, and complaints that they would not have enough time to prepare for the trial.

Various factors militated strongly against the trial being able to proceed on July 31 in any event, the prosecution document states.

With acknowledgement to Mariette le Roux, Sapa and Mail & Guardian.