Zuma defence lambastes state

The case against former deputy president Jacob Zuma should be struck from the roll and charges brought against him only when the state has its “house in order”, his advocate told the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday.

Kemp J Kemp, counsel for Zuma, accused the state of not complying with its constitutional obligation to provide a final indictment.

“I don’t even have an indictment that is relevant. I can’t even defend myself because I haven’t seen the indictment.”

He said the present indictment that had been supplied to him was “not even worth the paper it’s written on”.

Zuma and his co-accused, Thint, subsidiary of a French arms company, are asking that the court dismiss the trial because the case has been prejudiced by unreasonable delays caused by the state.

This is evident in the manpower problem the prosecution is having in the appeal of Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik against his conviction and sentencing to 15 years for fraud and corruption.

Zuma is accused of having accepted a R500 000-a-year bribe from Thint in exchange for protection into a probe into South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand arms deal.

Advocate Wim Trengove, for the state, earlier told the court the state will be ready to go to trial on October 15 when it will submit a finalised indictment for Zuma and his two co-accused.

“As far as the state is concerned, it will be ready to go to trial whenever the court decides and when the defence is ready,” Trengove said.

Raising the issue of Shaik’s appeal — who was found to have had a generally corrupt relationship with Zuma — Kemp asked how the state can say it will be ready to present a final indictment if that case has not been finalised.

The state has suggested a postponement until early next year to give Zuma and Thint’s defence time to study the 500-page KPMG forensic audit and prepare their case.

Kemp said if the state is serious and honest, the case should be adjourned until 2008. He added that Zuma should never have been charged.

Earlier, Trengove invited Zuma’s legal team to submit evidence taken in controversial search-and-seizure raids to be adjudicated by Judge Herbert Msimang, saying this would speed up the corruption trial and avoid duplication of procedures.

“In the interests of a speedy resolution, the trial court will be in a better position to consider the admissibility of the evidence [seized in the raids],” Trengove said.

The state said on Tuesday that the status of challenges to the various search-and-seizure raids conducted in the run-up to the trial are the main reason a postponement is needed.

He said while the state does not contest the defence’s right to contest the raids, the defence should not be surprised if this leads to delays.

“If they exercise their right to litigate [regarding the search-and-seizure raids) then they [Zuma’s defence] can’t complain about delays in this case.”

He said that the state will go ahead with the trial irrespective of whether the raids are contested.

Referring to a seized computer hard drive containing four million images, Kemp asked which one of the documents on the hard drive will be relevant to the case so the defence can prepare its case.

The case continues on Wednesday.

Trial comes to Sleepy Hollow

Business was brisk in the usually sleepy town. The manager of Café Bavaria — the closest coffee shop to the court — didn’t even have time to speak to the Mail & Guardian Online over the phone. “We are very busy and I have people looking at me waiting to be served,” said the manager, who did not want to be identified.

Minori Pillay, an employee at Mason Incorporated, which is situated about 500m from the court, said the experience of going to work on Tuesday morning was “not nice”.

“The traffic was so heavy because they closed off Church Street. The last time this happened I got to work 20 minutes late. Some of the girls sat in traffic for half an hour,” she said.

A comment on the Friends of Jacob Zuma website from a supporter by the name of Noxolo, reads: “Baba, please be strong today [Tuesday]. I’m sorry I can’t be there with you but I promise I will be praying for you and our lawyers the whole day. My friends, my comrades, please be strong for Baba and those who are in PMB, show him how much we love him. My heart bleeds that our hero has to go through all this. One day justice will come, JZ will rule.”

Nhlakanipho Ntombela, the provincial chairperson of the African National Congress Youth League, said there were about 8 000 supporters at the court from different organisations.

“People are energetic and they are coming in their numbers to showcase their support. They’re toyi-toying but otherwise everything is normal and has been very disciplined,” he said.

“Lots of reporters are staying at the hotel,” said Yashika Pillay, front-office supervisor at the City Royal Hotel, a few streets down from the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Church Street. “We are full, but mostly it’s like normal,” she added.

According to Errard Sullivan, general manager of the nearby Protea Imperial hotel, it was “not affected by it [the trial] whatsoever”.

But he added that there were traffic delays caused by road closures on streets surrounding the court.

“Traffic was diverted down this road away from the court,” said Pillay, “and it has been extremely busy.”

John Morrison, manager of the Msunduzi Municipal Library on Church Street, said the library was told not to open to the public, because the surrounding streets were blocked off to traffic. “It’s been quiet here, there is no tension or problems,” Morrison said. “It’s so quiet I don’t even notice it.”

“I’m not saying there aren’t people, there are people, but it’s more festive,” Morrison said.

“There is music playing, they are selling things like ANC and Zuma T-shirts, Kaizer Chiefs caps,” he said.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Muzi Mngonezunu said Zuma’s supporters were behaving “really well so far”.

Mngonezunu added that they have enough manpower to cover the area, with surveillance cameras and police officers deployed at almost every corner. “So far there are around 3 000 to 4 000 people outside the court already.”

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