Lawyers for South Africa’s Zuma tell court he is being treated unfairly

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Jacob Zuma’s lawyers argued on Monday that the former South African president had been treated unfairly by prosecutors in his attempt to have revived corruption charges set aside because he is unpopular in the country at large.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma sits in court during a break while facing charges that include fraud‚ corruption and racketeering in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, May 20, 2019. Themba Hadebe/Pool via REUTERS

Zuma, who was in office from 2009-2018, has applied for a permanent stay of prosecution from 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a deal to buy 30 billion rand (1.6 billion pounds) of European military hardware for South Africa’s armed forces in the late 1990s.

The 77-year old, appearing in court on Monday for the fifth time since the charges were reinstated in March 2018, has previously denied any wrongdoing and has said he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

On the first day of the hearing, Zuma’s lawyer, Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, described the former president’s treatment by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as “mob justice” and said Zuma had been charged because the country does not like him.

“Suppose we know that he may well have done what we suspect he did. Does he get stripped of human dignity, is there a reason to deal with him in a particular way because he is Mr Zuma?” Sikhakhane said in his opening comments.

He accused prosecutors of being biased against Zuma, who was ousted by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in February 2018 after nine years in power marked by graft allegations and economic stagnation that led to credit rating downgrades.

Sikhakhane also asked the court to consider transcripts of so-called “spy tapes”, which he said provided further evidence of political interference used to charge Zuma.

His other lawyer, Thabani Masuku, said the application was not an attack on the NPA, but a defence of Zuma’s rights.

“They themselves (NPA) in their own words, from their own mouths, (said they) were wrong in the way they’ve dealt with the Zuma prosecution,” Masuku told the court, citing the NPA’s affidavits.

LONG DELAYS CRITICISED

The defence and the state agreed on Monday morning to postpone the case against Zuma and co-accused French arms company Thales, setting Oct. 15 as a holding date pending judgement on the application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

Zuma’s lawyers also argued that there have been unreasonable delays to Zuma’s case that could lead to him not receiving a fair trial.

In a statement on Sunday, Thales expressed a similar view, saying it believed “it cannot obtain a fair trial” because of the very long delay of the case, together with a range of factors beyond its control.

Thales reiterated that it has no knowledge of any transgressions having been committed by any of its employees in relation to the awarding of the contract in the 1999 Arms Deal.

RIGHTS ‘GREATLY UNDERMINED’

Zuma later addressed hundreds of his supporters in the city of Pietermaritzburg, saying the case should not continue because it is old and those who were part of the prosecuting team, witnesses and judges have either retired, forgotten the events of 20 years ago, or died.

“Also, the rights of Zuma have been greatly undermined and we have evidence to prove that,” he told the crowd of people wearing ANC t-shirts and army jumpsuits.

Zuma led the crowd in his famous rendition of “Umshini wami”, made popular by the ANC’s armed wing during South Africa’s decades-long struggle against apartheid and which translates as “Bring my machine gun”.

The charges against Zuma were originally filed more than a decade ago but the NPA set them aside shortly before he successfully ran for president in 2009.

Slideshow (4 Images)

After his election, his opponents fought a lengthy legal battle to have the charges reinstated.

The case is a rare example of a judicial system seeking to hold an African leader to account for his actions.

Zuma, wearing a black suit and red tie, was subdued in court. His son Duduzane, who faces culpable homicide charges in a different case, and a few of his supporters including a former cabinet minister and ANC politicians travelled to Pietermaritzburg to support their former patron.

Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Additional reporting by Rogan Ward in Pietermaritzburg; Editing by Catherine Evans and Frances Kerry

Source

more recommended stories

  • Washington Governor Inslee withdraws bid for U.S. Democratic presidential nomination

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Washington state Governor.

  • U.S. charges Kansas researcher over ties to Chinese university

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A researcher at.

  • Canada’s Trudeau says won’t back down in dispute with China, urges restraint in Hong Kong

    OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister.

  • Nigeria’s Buhari assigns cabinet portfolios, appoints new oil minister

    FILE PHOTO: Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

  • More than 2,000 people displaced, 19 killed in Myanmar fighting

    YANGON (Reuters) – More than 2,000.

  • Moderate Islamists make new power quest in Tunisia

    TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisia’s moderate Islamists.

  • Ex-Vatican treasurer Pell to learn fate on child sex offences appeal

    George Pell arrives at the Supreme.

  • China hopes U.S. will come back to the table at Chile climate talks

    By Natalia A. Ramos Miranda and.

  • Syrian army poised to take key town after rebel withdrawals

    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian government forces.

  • U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo says ISIS strong in some areas -CBS

    FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State.

  • Tensions build on migrant ship off Italy; 10 jump overboard

    MADRID/LAMPEDUSA (Reuters) – Tensions rose on.

  • Space telescope offers rare glimpse of Earth-sized rocky exoplanet

    (Reuters) – Direct observations from a.

  • U.S. envoy offers farm visas to boost asylum deal with Guatemala

    GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – In a.

  • In retrial, El Salvador acquits woman accused of killing her stillborn child

    CIUDAD DELGADO, El Salvador (Reuters) –.

  • Washington cannot influence China’s decisions on Hong Kong – Global Times tabloid

    FILE PHOTO: Anti-extradition bill protesters march.

  • Polish opposition unites in bid to wrest Senate from ruling nationalists

    WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish opposition parties.

  • Afghanistan blasts wound dozens on Independence Day

    KABUL (Reuters) – A series of.

  • Trump affirms that Mike Pence will be 2020 running mate

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald.

  • Chinese embassy tells Canada to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs

    OTTAWA (Reuters) – China’s embassy in.

  • Hong Kong protesters throng streets peacefully in pouring rain

    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hundreds of.

  • Canary Islands authorities evacuate 4,000 as wildfire spreads

    Flames and smoke from a forest.

  • Islamic State claims Afghan wedding suicide blast that killed 63

    KABUL (Reuters) – The Islamic State.

  • Afghan wedding suicide blast kills 63, amid hopes for talks

    KABUL (Reuters) – A suicide bomber.

  • Israeli military fires on militants at Gaza border, Palestinians say three killed

    Relatives of Palestinian gunmen who were.

  • Police make arrests as right-wing, anti-fascist groups rally in Portland

    (Reuters) – Police in Portland, Oregon.

  • Eastern Libyan forces damaged civilian airport in western Libya – U.N.

    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Eastern Libyan forces.

  • Sudanese army and civilians seal interim power-sharing deal

    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s main opposition.

  • Italy’s Salvini dismisses fears for health of stranded migrants

    LAMPEDUSA, Italy (Reuters) – A charity.

  • Yemeni Houthis claim attack on Saudi oilfield; no Saudi confirmation

    DUBAI (Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthi movement.

  • Exclusive: Muslim insurgent group says it met with Thai government

    (Reuters) – The main group fighting.

  • Building set on fire in protest against China’s CNPC in Peru

    LIMA (Reuters) – A building in.

  • Official autopsy concludes Epstein death’s was suicide by hanging

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York.