AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
FORMER president Jacob Zuma has pleaded not guilty to 18 charges which include fraud, corruption, racketeering in connection with the multi-billion arms deal.
Zuma, appearing alongside Thales, the French arms manufacturer, told Judge Piet Koen that he understands all the charges and said: “I plead not guilty.”
Zuma’s plea came after leading state prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer laid out, to the court, the case against the former president. The first charge is that Zuma participated in a criminal enterprise between 1995 and 2001.
Downer said the 2nd charge against Zuma was that between 1995 and 2005 he corruptly and unlawfully received 783 payments, totalling R4.7-million from Shabir Shaik, his former advisor. The payments were in exchange for Zuma advancing Shaik’s business interests.
The state has also charged that Zuma abused his position in government when he accepted an annual R500 000 bribe from Thales, formally registered as Thomson CSF.
Downer said Zuma is also accused of money laundering for deliberately concealing the R500 000 bribe which was paid as a form of protection for Thales to help them avoid prosecution.
Zuma is also charged with misleading Parliament in that when he responded to a question posed by then Democratic Alliance MP Raenette Taljaard, he denied meeting with Shaik and Thales executive Alain Thethard in Durban in 2000.
He is also charged with lying to the cabinet in that he failed to disclose, as was his legal duty, the payments he received from Shaik and Thales.
The former president is also charged with tax evasion.The state charges that he did not disclose payments from Shaik and Thales.
Zuma’s legal team, now led by Advocate Dali Mpofu, is set to start making a case to support their application that Downer, who has worked on the case for 17 years, must recuse himself from the case.
Outside court, hundreds of supporters, clad in military and traditional regalia, came to support Zuma. Inside court, the former president was supported by suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala and former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede.