When the legal heat is on, Jacob Zuma retreats to his old tactics – delay, delay and delay.
Monday was no different in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, where Zuma is trying to have his case permanently dismissed.
Zuma’s legal team – advocates Dali Mpofu and Thabani Masuku – told Judge Piet Koen that their client was against testifying virtually in the multi-billion rand Arms Deal case.
They want the corruption trial to be postponed until Zuma can physically appear in court and give oral evidence. This is a new request in his special plea application.
That’s not all.
The former president, who faces 18 charges from the 1990s Arms Deal, wants state prosecutor advocate Billy Downer to recuse himself as lead prosecutor.
But the state advocate’s Wim Trengove summed up Zuma’s application as another of his “Stalingrad” tactics which he has used to avoid accountability.
Trengove said Zuma’s attempt to remove Downer as lead prosecutor had no basis. This tactic has already been dismissed by the Supreme Court of Appeal in two other cases – the so-called spy tapes case and for a permanent stay of prosecution.
“This is simply a rehash of old complaints dressed up as special defence. But it is merely a ruse. It is recycling of old complaints,” he said.
Zuma’s legal team even cut-n-pasted 135 paragraphs in his current application from a previous ConCourt application for leave to appeal.
“This application is Stalingrad season 27, and that’s all it is,” Trengove said, referring to Zuma’s strategy of fighting every legal point like Russian soldiers did in defending their city against the German army during World War 2.
The state is opposing Zuma’s application for another postponement.
“He desperately seeks to avoid answering the charges of corruption, fraud and money-laundering made against him,” Trengove said.
Mpofu said he had difficulty consulting with Zuma, who is in the Estcourt prison, where he is serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of a Constitutional Court order.
Zuma appeared in public, via Zoom, for the first time since his arrest on 7 July for defying the order to appear at the state capture commission of inquiry.
He waved at the camera and smiled before proceedings started.
Judge Koen is eager to get the case started, given that it has dragged on for over 15 years.
He will make his judgement on Tuesday at 10am.
Political analyst Prince Mashele said Zuma wants to appear in person so that his supporters would flock to the Pietermaritzburg high court.
“He’s thinking politically, more than legally. This is his strategy. He wants to show his political enemies that people still love him.”