All eyes on state application in Zuma matter

The Durban High Court was packed with journalists on Wednesday ahead of the state’s application for leave to appeal against Judge Chris Nicholson’s ruling that invalidated charges brought against African National Congress president Jacob Zuma.

Nicholson ruled last month that the state’s decision to prosecute Zuma was unlawful because the state had failed to take representation from him.

When the judgement became known, thousands celebrated outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court and within weeks Thabo Mbeki had stepped down as president of the country.

Apart from the media packed into Court L, there was a small presence of eThekwini metro police on the nearby Margaret Mncadi Avenue (formerly Victoria Embankment).

Zuma himself was not at court as he is out of the country.

Advocate Wim Trengove was expected to deliver argument for the state, while Kemp J Kemp would lead Zuma’s opposition to the application.

In its papers filed on September 30, the National Prosecuting Authority listed 16 grounds for appealing Nicholson’s September 12 judgement—including that it did not believe that Nicholson had grounds to rule on the establishment of an arms-deal inquiry or to comment on then-president Mbeki’s decision to dismiss Zuma as deputy president of the country.

It also opposes Zuma’s claim that he was entitled to representation before being charged.

Zuma faced a charge each of racketeering and money laundering, two charges of corruption and 12 charges of fraud related to the multibillion-rand government arms deal.

He was charged in 2005, but that case was struck from the roll in 2006. He was recharged in December 2007.

Meanwhile, Zuma met United States government officials on Tuesday to assure them it was business as usual in Africa’s biggest economy, despite recent political turmoil.

In his most high-profile foreign visit since becoming president of the ANC in December, Zuma held talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and met briefly with President George Bush at the White House.

Zuma said one of the main aims of the visit was to improve commercial ties between the two countries.

He said not enough had been done in the past to encourage investment from the United States, one of South Africa’s key trading partners.

The State Department said in her meeting with Zuma, Rice underscored the importance of concluding the nearly seven-year-old round of Doha world trade talks to ensure an agreement that would help South Africa. She expressed hope that a trade deal could still be completed before Bush leaves office in January.—Sapa, Reuters

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