Publication: Sunday Times Issued: Date: 2008-08-03 Reporter: Paddy Harper

Another Roll of the Dice for Zuma



Sunday Times



Reporter Paddy Harper

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In final efforts to halt his prosecution, lawyers will try to get case scrapped

Time is running out for ANC president Jacob Zuma's legal team in their bid to keep their client from facing the scrutiny of a trial court.

Since June 2005, Zuma's lawyers have thrown everything into ensuring that their client does not stand trial or that, if he does, the amount of evidence against him is limited.

They have claimed all manner of dirty tricks on the part of the state from political persecution to seizing privileged documents to get an inside track on Zuma's defence while never quite delivering on promises to expose the "conspiracy" against Zuma.

This week, that strategy took a major knock when the Constitutional Court rejected Zuma's appeal against the Supreme Court of Appeal's decision to allow the state to use 93 000 documents it had seized in the August 2005 raids on his homes and offices and those of his lawyer, Michael Hulley.

It also rejected his appeal against the SCA's ratification of a Durban High Court decision to allow the state to secure evidence against him from Mauritius, including the encrypted fax allegedly soliciting a bribe of R1-million for him from co-accused Thint.

The knock to Zuma is not confined to the damage the evidence might do in court. Judge President Pius Langa confirmed the state's view that the courts "should discourage preliminary litigation that appears to have no purpose other than to circumvent" trial proceedings.

Zuma and his lawyers will spend tonight praying that Judge Chris Nicholson and his assessors, Griffiths Madonsela and JP Purshotam, reject Judge Langa's view .

But should they not, the application for the case to be dismissed will fail and the last roll of the dice will be a second application by Zuma for a permanent stay of prosecution, which will again be heard by Judge Nicholson. If they take Langa's view, they are likely to rule that Zuma's trial on 18 counts of corruption and fraud should commence.

The ANC and the Society for the Protection of our Constitution will lodge applications to join the Zuma case as amici curiae (friends of the court) to have the case thrown out.

This is part of the Zuma camp's delaying strategy while it "considers" constitutional changes to prevent a sitting president from facing criminal charges, and a blanket amnesty for all those involved in the arms deal. Ironically, this strategy may be extended by going back to the Constitutional Court if Nicholson rules against Zuma.

On Monday, Judge Nicholson will rule on the society's application, too.

If he rules against a permanent stay, negotiations over a trial date between the parties involved in the case will start and Zuma's long-awaited day in court will have finally arrived.

With acknowledgements to Paddy Harper and the Sunday Times.