TimesSelect 15 May 2019
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has slammed the permanent stay of prosecution applications bought by former president Jacob Zuma and his corruption co-accused, French arms company Thales, as nothing more than a bid “to avoid at all cost having to answer to the criminal charges against them”.
In heads of argument filed at the Pietermaritzburg High Court, the NPA also hit out at Zuma for making “emotive and at times insulting accusations based on conspiracy theories without any foundation in fact” in his bid to have his prosecution stopped.
The NPA says Zuma’s Stalingrad defence – a term used by his former advocate, Kemp J Kemp, to describe how the former president intended to fight his prosecution “in every room, in every street, in every house” – had “cost the state between R16.7m and R32m”.
“It has so far been successful in that it has allowed Mr Zuma to escape prosecution for almost 15 years,” the state argues, adding’that SA’s courts had made it clear that such a litigation strategy should be discouraged.
Zuma’s legal team argues that the case against him has been irreversibly compromised by the state’s “unreasonable delay” in putting him on trial, as well as by political interference in his prosecution.
He contends that he should have been put on trial with his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who was convicted in 2005 of keeping him on a corrupt retainer to do his bidding. Shaik was also found guilty of facilitating a R500,000 annual bribe for Zuma from Thales, in exchange for his protection from any potential arms deal investigation.
The state says Thales avoided being prosecuted with Shaik “by misleading the National Prosecuting Authority about its willingness to co-operate in the prosecution of Mr Shaik, who was accused of having bribed Mr Zuma”.
“After having escaped their initial prosecution by trickery, Thales rode on Mr Zuma’s coattails to avoid prosecution. It too has been successful in doing so thus far.”
The NPA is adamant that the applications bought by Zuma and Thales to permanently stop their prosecutions from going ahead must be dismissed “because the accused have been the main cause of delay”.
The NPA contends it can only be held responsible for a 22-month delay in Zuma’s prosecution.
“Mr Zuma’s allegations of prosecutorial misconduct are unfounded. The accused have not established that their trial will be substantively unfair. The facts and circumstances do not justify the radical remedy they seek – barring the prosecution before the trial begins without any opportunity to ascertain the real effect of the delay.”
The NPA further argues it is constitutionally obliged to prosecute corruption, a crime the Constitutional Court has described as stunting sustainable development and economic growth and putting the stability and security of society at risk.
Addressing Zuma’s argument that his prosecution had been tainted by “egregious” political interference, the NPA – which previously withdrew the charges against Zuma on the basis of alleged political meddling in his case – now says such “speculative conspiracy theories” are “unfounded”.
“The case based on the conspiracy theories is, however, in any event stillborn. That is because Mr Zuma’s prosecution remains perfectly lawful, even if it is politically motivated.”
The NPA argues that the Supreme Court of Appeal “has repeatedly made it clear that an improper purpose does not render a prosecution unlawful”.
Zuma and Thales’s permanent stay of prosecution applications will be heard from May 20 to 23.