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Zuma to enter special plea in corruption trial

STAFF REPORTER 

SUSPENDED ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and ANC MP, Supra Mahumapelo, also suspended, were among the party members who were in the Maritzburg Magistrates’ Court to support ex-president Jacob Zuma on the first day of his corruption trial.

Magashule and Mahumapelo sat next to each other in the public gallery. Two benches in front of them sat KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala. Two benches behind them was Zuma’s son Duduzane. Carl Niehaus, a spokesperson of a faction of the ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans, an ever-present at Zuma’s trials, was also in the courtroom. 

Patricia de Lille, the South African Minister of Public Works and the first witness for the State, sat in the front bench, a few meters away from Zuma, who came to court today wearing a three-piece navy suit.

Outside court, Zuma’s supporters, clad in ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ colours, sang and danced.

Inside court, there was a delay before the start of the trial, possibly caused by the fact that Zuma has new lawyers. His previous representatives dumped him a few weeks ago. 

Accordingly, the first matter that the court dealt with after the start of the trial was the formal withdrawal of Advocate Eric Mabuza as Zuma’s attorneys. Advocate Thabani Masuku, instructed by Tusini Attorneys, is Zuma’s new representative. 

Zuma was not asked to plead and Judge Piet Koen postponed the matter to May 26 so that his lawyers can submit affidavits in support of a special plea that the former president wishes to enter. Masuku indicated to the court that he has a not guilty plea ready. He also told the court that Zuma is “ready and has always been ready” to proceed with the trial.

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His lawyers are also expected to file an application for the lead State prosecutor Billy Downer to recuse himself. 

The appearance of Zuma follows 17-year of delays, twists and turns.

Zuma appeared in court today with his co-accused French arm manufacturer Thales and after exchanges between the prosecution and defence on the readiness for trial.

The matter that relates to the allegations of fraud and corruption related to the 1999 multi-billion arms deal. Zuma is facing 784 charges. He is accused of accepting millions of rand in corrupt benefits from his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, in return for using his position in the government to advance Shaik’s business interests. Shaik was convicted and jailed for fraud and corruption.

Zuma also faces charges that he accepted a R500,000-a-year bribe from Thales in exchange for his political protection from any potential arms deal investigation.

By The African Mirror

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