Both the National Prosecuting Authority and Jacob Zuma’s legal team should shoulder the blame for the almost 14-year-long delays in prosecutions and the criminal proceedings should commence as scheduled for October 15.
This was the passionate plea made by advocate Wim Trengrove, who made the submissions at the Pietermaritzburg division of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court on behalf of the state on Thursday morning.
Trengrove argued that Zuma’s legal team was clutching at straws and reliant on unfounded conspiracy theories.
“The high-water mark of the case Mr Zuma seeks to make, on the basis of his speculative conspiracy theories, is that the prosecution against him is politically motivated. We shall submit that the conspiracy theories are unfounded and are in dispute and should accordingly be disregarded,” he told the full bench of judges.
He went on to argue that since the case was based on conspiracy theories it was “in any event stillborn because Mr Zuma’s prosecution remains perfectly lawful even if it is politically motivated”.
“The Supreme Court of Appeal has repeatedly made it clear that an improper purpose does not render a prosecution unlawful,” said Trengrove.
This line of argument came as a result of Zuma’s legal team on Monday and his co-accusers French arms company, Thales, on Tuesday both making submissions that there has been “undue delays on the trial” to the point that both applications did not foresee and fair trial being afforded to them.
Zuma’s senior counsel Muzi Sikhakhane also argued that the conduct of the NPA, as depicted in the conversations between South Africa’s first national director of public prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, and former Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy in the spy tapes left his client without a shadow of a doubt that his prosecution was politically motivated.
Leading to the two co-accused’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution.
Trengrove argued that this was wholly misleading as: “The accused, Zuma and Thales, have brought these applications to avoid answering to the criminal charges against them. They are a further instalment in a tactic the accused have successfully employed for some 15 years, which has become known as a ‘Stalingrad Defence’.”
He went on to argue that Zuma consistently litigated against any form of prosecution and hence could not “today come here and request that this court grant him a stay of prosecution due to unnecessary delay of which he was a chief cause”.
Zuma’s team will be afforded a chance to make closing arguments before the court adjourns for three months before coming back with a verdict.
Thales and Zuma are facing charges of fraud, money laundering, corruption and racketeering linked to 783 payments that the French company allegedly made to the former president in connection with the infamous arms deal.