The state is still not ready to proceed with the Jacob Zuma corruption trial and wants it postponed until early 2021. This is evidenced by a confidential email that the state’s chief prosecutor, Adv. Billy Downer (SC), allegedly sent to Judge President Achmat Jappie of the KwaZulu-Natal judiciary last week.
It is this email that now causes Zuma’s team to question the “merits of the case” against Zuma.
The state apparently wants to amend the charge sheet because KPMG originally omitted the alleged payments made by Schabir Shaik and his Nkobi group to Zuma at the time of the government’s arms deal more than 10 years ago.
The charges stem from the controversial arms deal negotiated by the South African government in the late 1990s.
Zuma, who was charged with alleged corruption in April 2018, the hearing was to be heard later this year.
Nathi Mncube, spokesman for Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s office, told the media earlier that Judge Jappie had not seen Downer’s letter because the court was closed to be disinfected.
However, it appears that Downer’s email to Jappie was in response to a query from the judge president about the expected length of court proceedings against Zuma. Downer apparently did not include Zuma’s new legal team in his response to Jappie.
Zuma’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, heard about the correspondence and sent a strongly worded letter to Judge Jappie and his deputy, Judge Mjabuliseni Isaac Madondo, to object that he was not included in the correspondence.
Mabuza said he was not in the privileged position to know what the justification for or the exact nature of the one-sided (ex parte) discussion was and whether Jappie’s questions to Downer were oral or written.
“This is inappropriate because not all parties involved were aware of the issues and reasons [discussed].”
He further states that it is clear that Judge Jappie has even moved in the area of the possible changes to the charge sheet and that his client (Zuma) is seriously concerned that a second legal process is underway at the same time, which he and his legal team are excluded from.
According to Mabuza’s letter was right Madondo the only person who was assigned to communicate with the NPA and Jappie of this re ies themselves knew.
“There are serious concerns that discussions are taking place that have a real impact on the merits of the case,” said Mabuza.
He specifically refers to Jappie who apparently wanted to know at Downer what evidence he has that more payments were made to Zuma by Shaik and also that the impression is created that the state is putting pressure on the judiciary to get a reprieve that would suit their case.
“Zuma is grieved that the judge president could think it appropriate to discuss it with the state without his legal team being present,” Mabuza writes. “The reasons are obvious and relate to fairness, equality and the elimination of any reasonable perception or fear that there may be prejudice.”
Willie Spies of the law firm Hurter Spies says he thinks it is improper if there is direct consultation between the state and a judge without at least including the other party’s legal representative. The only exception may be if the attorney has not yet been placed on record as the accused’s legal representative.
However, according to Mabuza’s letter, he had previously received correspondence from Deputy Judge President Madondo in connection with the Zuma case, which means that the firm is on record as Zuma’s legal representative.