Heath to be Zuma's lawyer

Former head of the Special Investigation Unit, Judge Willem Heath, announced on Monday that he will act as a legal adviser to former deputy president Jacob Zuma in his corruption trial.

Heath met Zuma on Monday morning, according to a statement issued by Heath Executive Consultants.

The former judge, who in 2000 was tasked with investigating corruption regarding the government’s controversial R43-billion arms deal—said he would not be part of the team representing Zuma in court.

“I agreed to accept a brief as legal counsel to advise him on the merits of the corruption charges which may be brought against him,” said Heath.

“I will not be part of the legal team, which will represent him in any criminal trial which may be brought against him.”

He added that he would also not be issuing statements on his progress regarding “the merits of the matter”.

Zuma is due to appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday on two charges of corruption.

The charges followed a finding by the Durban High Court of a “generally corrupt” relationship between Zuma and his financial adviser Schabir Shaik, during Shaik’s fraud and corruption trial.

Shaik was sentenced in effect to 15 years in prison.

Heath said he reiterated his view that it was “unfair” and “may well be prejudicial” that Zuma was not prosecuted concurrently with Shaik.

“Shaik was tried in the absence of Mr Zuma whereas people who were allegedly parties to corruption are usually tried together,” said Heath.

“In the absence of Mr Zuma, Judge (Hilary) Squires… made findings against Zuma which finding may have been different had they been tried together”.

Heath said numerous statements were made at the time when the National Prosecuting Authority decided not to prosecute Zuma.

“Further statements followed during the course of the Shaik trial and many other public statements have been made subsequent to the conviction of Shaik, many of which reflected on Mr Zuma in a prejudicial manner,” the former judge said.

He said he would advise Zuma with “the same dedication” enjoyed by his other clients.

Democratic Alliance spokesperson Sheila Camerer said Heath appearing for Zuma was ironic—but not surprising.

“It is hardly surprising, Heath is paid for the (father and son mining team Roger and Brett) Kebbles… they are firmly in the Zuma camp. It will be interesting to know if they are funding his defence,” said Camerer.

“It is an irony in a sense, Heath was very fed up that SIU was excluded from arms deal probe. It is interesting how what goes around comes around in South African politics.
It is an irony really.”

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille agreed, pointing out that Zuma wrote the letter that informed Parliament of Heath’s exclusion.

“We are living in a free country. People have choices, you know. If Zuma has selected former judge Willem Heath to be his legal representative, it is fine to do that. If Heath has agreed to have Jacob Zuma as a client that is also his right,” De Lille said.

“The judge was a witness in the Schabir Shaik trial. How he will handle that will certainly be a problem for the judge.”

Heath has recently represented the Kebbles in some of their many legal wrangles. - Sapa

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