Former President Jacob Zuma is to get his day in court. It was announced on Friday afternoon by the National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams that he would face charges of corruption, fraud and racketeering
Abrahams – known as “Shaun the Sheep” – finally announced after protracted delays that Zuma would go to court. He said he had, in writing, provided the reasoning for the prosecution of Zuma – “to his lawyers”.
The case against Zuma has lingered in the prosecuting authority for more than 10 years – with a previous National Director of Public Prosecutions declining to prosecute. He faces 783 corruption, fraud and racketeering counts. They relate to South Africa’s controversial arms deal.
His former friend, disgraced businessman Schabir Shaik, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2005 on similar charges – but was later released on medical parole.
The Economic Freedom Fighters’ Mbuyiseni Ndlozo said when Shaik said he was prepared to testify against then President Jacob Zuma in court, that he was confident that Zuma would land behind bars.
It is not clear how long Zuma would be placed behind bars if he is found guilty.
However, the case against Shaik would give some indication of the length of time he could be expected to serve.
Gareth van Onselen, Head of Policy and Governance at the SA Institute of Race Relations, welcomed the announcement.
“The decision represents an important victory for two critical aspects of any constitutional democracy: The rule of law, and the role and purpose of a vigilant opposition. Our democracy has been well served by both and will, as a result, be stronger for the precedent set,” he said.
“It is worrying, however, that despite a vast, well-documented and repeatedly confirmed compendium of evidence concerning the former President, well ventilated over the course of a decade, it took so long for it to translate into the requisite moral imperative inside the ANC itself.
”Even at the point of his removal from office, neither the ANC nor the incumbent, President Cyril Ramaphosa, would provide the public with reasons for the termination of his tenure.
”Today, the public is none the wiser. This disjuncture – between a well-evidenced argument for his unsuitability for office and an obligation to the public to lead by example and in an open and transparent manner – suggests that, even today, the ANC has failed properly to take responsibility for the decision it made, when it elected Jacob Zuma as its president in 2007.
”That is cause for serious concern. South Africa will remain at the mercy of populism if it does not inculcate the important lessons Jacob Zuma’s legal battles hold. Of them all, the ultimate one is that all are equal before the law.
“When we allow self-interest to elevate one man above others in the name of some demagogic agenda, that is to open the path to self-destruction and tyranny.
If there is indeed a “New Dawn” breaking inside the ANC, some moral introspection and reflection is now required.”
Said Ben Theron, OUTA’s Chief Operating Officer: “Jacob Zuma’s day in court has been long overdue and, while we applaud Shaun Abrahams for eventually taking the obvious decision, we believe he is largely to blame for the unnecessary delay in getting this matter to where it is today.
“Nonetheless, South Africans have a very good reason to be happy our criminal justice system is working in favour of the people, reminding us and those in authority that no-one is above the law.
“It appeared to many that Jacob Zuma was above the law for a very long time; however, we were always confident that, in time, the barriers that kept him out of court and possibly jail would eventually be removed. That day has now arrived.”
And DA leader Mmusi Maimane said: “This is a victory for all who have fought for years for Jacob Zuma to face accountability for his crimes. That accountability starts now.
“We launched this review application in 2009, after the 783 charges were dropped illegally and unconstitutionally. It is a fight that we have been waging in the Courts for almost nine years and today’s decision is a vindication of the decision to challenge the dropping of the charges. Now there must be no further delay in starting the trial.
“The witnesses are ready, the evidence is strong, and Jacob Zuma must finally have his day in court.
“We will brief our legal teams immediately to oppose any effort by Zuma to delay this any further, including his application for a stay of prosecution.
“We will also fight to ensure the public do not have to carry the costs of Zuma’s defence, as they have already done for the past 9 years.
“I thank all of the legal teams who have waged this ‘lawfare’ over the years. Their effort and dedication has defeated Zuma’s endless delay tactics.
“When Shabir Shaik was found guilty on charges of corruption and fraud in relation to the Arms Deal on 7 April 2005, Judge Squires’ judgment made it clear that Zuma must also be charged, and that the evidence for this was “convincing and really overwhelming”.
”Shaik and Zuma’s trials should never have been separated in the first place and the decision to reinstate the charges should not have been a difficult one. Zuma’s day in court is years overdue and the NPA’s prosecutions team have said that there was a strong case on the merits and the only reason charges were dropped was because of the infamous Spy Tapes.
“The then NDPP made the decision to withdraw charges against Zuma because he felt that the Spy Tapes had prejudiced Zuma and had made the trial unfair toward him. The DA challenged this decision in court and this is what we have been fighting for the past nine years, which has now been vindicated.”