Former president Jacob Zuma has proclaimed his innocence, telling his supporters that he is being targeted because of his stance on radical economic transformation.
Addressing a crowd of around 5 000 supporters who had turned out for his appearance on corruption, money laundering and racketeering charges over payments totalling R1.38-million from convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik, Zuma said he was “innocent until proven otherwise.”
“The truth will come out. What have I done? I am innocent until proven otherwise,” Zuma said.
Zuma made the comments from the back of a truck parked on Durban’s Margaret Mncadi Avenue. This came shortly after his brief appearance before Judge Themba Sishi in Court A at the Durban High Court to place the case back on the court roll.
Speaking after church and lobby group leaders, including Bishop Vusi Dube, sacked SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng and BLF leader Andile Mngxitama, Zuma said he was “being targeted” because of his “stand on radical economic transformation”.’
Zuma said there were “people who want me silenced” because they wanted to remain rich and keep the black majority poor.
The former ANC president questioned why he was “being charged twice”, saying that while other people had rights, he did not.
Zuma’s supporters defied the ANC National Executive Committee ban on the wearing of ANC regalia at the court hearing, with the bulk of the crowd, many of them students from the Durban University of Technology, turning up in party t-shirts.
Zuma will appear in court again on June 8. Prosecutor Billy Downer told Judge Sishi that the prosecution would be ready to proceed by November 12, but that several matters needed to be finalised first.
Zuma’s legal team would make an application for the decision by National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams to be reviewed. This would hopefully be concluded by June 8, said Downer, who ran Zuma’s first prosecution, which was halted by then NDPP Mokotedi Mpshe in a decision that was later found to be irrational and unlawful.
Downer was in court with fellow prosecutors Raymond Mathenjwa and Almicia Coetzee, while Zuma was represented by Hoosen Gani SC. Anton Katz SC appeared for Thales, a corporate accused who will be represented during the trial by Christine Guirrera.
Guirrera looked a little confused as she sat in the dock waiting for Zuma to arrive and sat some distance from him, looking ahead nervously when Zuma inquired as to her health.
Downer said that lawyers for Zuma’s co-accused, French arms dealer Thales SA (Pty) Ltd, formerly known as Thint, had also requested an adjournment for time to “make representations” to the NDPP. This process should be concluded by May 15 and the results would be communicated to the court when the case resumed in June.
Thint allegedly paid Shaik, then Zuma’s financial advisor, R500 000 for Zuma’s “protection” during the controversial arms deal. The money was then paid on to Zuma.
The former president faces charges over the payment and a series of other payments from Shaik while Zuma was economic development MEC in KwaZulu-Natal. Shaik received a 15 year jail sentence over the payments, which Judge Hilary Squires found were corrupt. He was later released on medical parole.
Zuma looked tense during the court appearance, but turned to greet supporters inside court, who packed the public gallery.
On his arrival they chanted “Zuma! Zuma!” and rose to their feet.
Among the Zuma supporters inside court were KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu and several members of his cabinet, with MEC’s Mthandeni Dlungwane and Mxolisi Kaunda delivering on their public promises to support Zuma in their “individual capacity”.
Ousted ANC provincial secretary Super Zuma and chairperson Sihle Zikalala also attended the case and sat in the packed public gallery along with Durban mayor and eThekwini regional chairperson Zandile Gumede.