/ 16 March 2018

Hulley’s phone is off. Maimane vindicated

Former president Jacob Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma.

The ANC has reacted to the news that former president Jacob Zuma will be charged, saying that it is confident in the criminal justice system.

“ANC has noted the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to reinstate charges of corruption against the former President of the ANC and the Republic of South Africa, Comrade Jacob Zuma,” the ruling party said in a statement.

“ANC reaffirms its confidence in our country’s criminal justice system and our respect for the independence of the judiciary. We equally affirm our commitment to the constitutionally enshrined principle of equality of all before the law.”

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane meanwhile reacted to the news of the charges against Zuma being reinstated saying it was a triumph for South Africa, but adding that the state must not pay Zuma’s legal costs.

“This is a very historic day. Mr Zuma will now be charged and will appear in court,” Maimane said.

Maimane said the decision to charge Zuma was a victory for all of those who had fought for years to hold the former president accountable for his actions.

“That accountability starts now,” Maimane said.

Maimane said that the DA had been fighting to have Zuma brought back to court since it launched a review application in 2009 against the decision to drop original charges against him ‘’illegally and unconstitutionally’’.

“It is a fight we have been waging in the courts for nine years and today’s decision is a vindication of the decision to challenge the dropping of the charges,” he said.

Maimane said the trial should go ahead without delay.

“The witnesses are ready, the evidence is strong, and Jacob Zuma must finally have his day in court,” Maimane said.

Maimane said the DA would brief its legal team to immediately oppose any attempt to delay the trial, including Zuma’s application for a stay of prosecution. The would similarly oppose any attempt to make the public pay Zuma’s legal costs.

Maimane said Zuma’s trial and that of Shaik should “never have been separated” and that the former head of state’s day in court was “long overdue.”

Zuma’s son Edward, who was a key player in the campaign to mobilise supporters for the bid to keep his father out of jail in 2009, declined to comment.

“The appropriate people to comment on this are the office of the former president. Please talk to them about this,” Edward Zuma said.

Zuma’s attorney, Michael Hulley, appears to have turned his cellphone off. He did not respond to messages immediately after the announcement.

Shaik, who was tried over the payments to Zuma totalling more than R1.38-million, including a R500 000 bribe from French arms dealer Thint, was not willing to comment on whether or not he would turn state witness against Zuma.

Early in the investigation by the then Scorpions, Shaik was offered the opportunity to turn state witness against Zuma in return for immunity from prosecution. Shaik declined the offer and was himself charged and convicted of fraud and corruption, landing himself with a 15 year jail sentence.

Shaik stuck by a version of events in court that was aimed at limiting the damage to both himself and Zuma. This time around Shaik’s explanation of the chain of events and reasons for paying Zuma for political interventions could be far more damaging to his former political patron.

While Shaik served only two years and four months of his 15-year sentence and did so in prison and private hospitals before being released on medical parole in 2009 he is understood to be bitter that Zuma did not give him a presidential pardon during his term of office.

“I don’t have any comment at this point in time,” Shaik said. “I may have a comment at some point closer to the trial, but for now I have nothing to say.”

Shaik is among more than 200 witnesses who are ready to testify when the matter goes back to court.– Additional reporting by Beauregard Tromp.