Former president Jacob Zuma appeared in the dock of the Durban High Court for the first time since 2009, as accused number one in the corruption case against him.
Finally getting the day in court he has been asking for, political and legal experts believe Friday’s court appearance is only the beginning of a legal battle that Zuma will try his utmost to postpone for as long as possible.
Despite the State indicating that it was ready to proceed with its case against the former president at the earliest available date (November 12), several factors could see Zuma’s prosecution being dragged out for years.
1. Zuma wants NPA to review decision to prosecute him
Zuma’s legal team said on Friday that it will seek a review of National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams’s decision that there was no reason for him not to stand trial.
They will attempt to make representations to the NPA on this by June 15.
“This will be the third bite of the cherry Zuma has,” says Casac’s Lawson Naidoo. “He first tried Mokotedi Mpshe in 2009, and his application was dismissed. Then he tried Shaun Abrahams, who after reviewing the case, decided to reinstate the charges. Now he wants the NPA to review the case for a third time. We have no idea what grounds he can come up with for this.”
Legally, no person has the right to have the NPA review its decision to prosecute them. According to section 179(5) of the Constitution, the NDPP “may” grant a review, but this is not a given.
Naidoo said he found it concerning that the State prosecutor in the case, advocate Billy Downer, would entertain this. Downer said on Friday that the State was willing to postpone the matter to June 8 to allow Zuma time to manage his review application.
“Any issues now should be raised in the trial court. Let the court decide. It must operate on the basis of what exists before it, and can’t be held to ransom. I think the court must step in and say, enough is enough. It is an abuse of the legal process.”
#ZumaCharges in 5 points:
1. Zuma continues Stalingrad strategy.
2. State ready to prosecute. 1st available date 12 Nov.
3. Zuma will challenge case on 2 fronts.
4. First Zuma will review NDPP's decision to prosecute.
5. If fails he will ask court to stay prosecution. @TeamNews24
— Adriaan Basson (@AdriaanBasson) April 6, 2018
2. Zuma wants to apply for a permanent stay of prosecution
If his application to review the NPA’s decision to prosecute him is unsuccessful, Zuma wants to apply to the court for a permanent stay of prosecution. This will likely be on grounds that, due to the time that’s lapsed since the charges against him were initially brought, there is prejudice against him.
“The problem is, he has been the architect of those delays,” Naidoo says. “It would be self-serving to say that the delays will cause prejudice against him, because he created the delays. It is clearly a continuation of his Stalingrad approach. He tries one thing and if that doesn’t work, he tries the next. But his strategy is highly contradictory.”
3. Zuma could run out of money
President Cyril Ramaphosa will soon have to decide whether to fight a DA application to stop continued state funding of Zuma’s legal fees. If he decides to stop state support for Zuma’s legal battles, the former president will have to fight his case on his own.
This could affect his defence strategy.
“The issue of legal fees is of critical importance. If someone’s got a blank cheque, they will appeal and appeal. But for ordinary people who don’t have endless funds, this isn’t possible. If you do not have resources, you have to accept the judgment, especially if your legal counsel tells you there’s little chance of an appeal being successful,” Naidoo says.
— Jeanette Chabalala (@J_chabalala) April 6, 2018
4. Appeal upon appeal?
Regardless of funding, there is the possibility that Zuma might appeal any judgment against him right up to the highest court in the land. Should he ultimately be found guilty by the Durban High Court on the 16 charges of corruption, he will likely appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court of Appeal, and should that appeal fail and his legal team is able to find grounds to do so, he will also appeal to the Constitutional Court.
This process could drag on for years.