Arms probe set to explode

From a glance, the state appears to have assembled a formidable arsenal to prosecute its fraud and corruption case against ANC president Jacob Zuma.

From a glance, the state appears to have assembled a formidable arsenal to prosecute its fraud and corruption case against ANC president Jacob Zuma.

This is apparent from its curious line-up of 218 key witnesses to testify against the ANC president.

Ironically they include former Judge Willem Heath, the man who was barred by President Thabo Mbeki from probing irregularities in the multibillion-rand arms deal.

Zuma will appear in the Pietermaritzburg high court on August 14 to face 18 charges including fraud, corruption, tax evasion and money laundering.

Zuma's ally Durban businessman Vivian Reddy is a surprise addition to the list - as are former high-ranking ANC MP Andrew Feinstein and ID leader Patricia de Lille.

Just as curious is the inclusion of managing director of C2I2 Richard Young, who once accused the then auditor-general Shauket Fakie of sanitising a report on the investigations about irregularities in the arms deal.

Young has been as vocal as De Lille in calling for a formal inquiry into the arms deal in the past. Feinstein has previously accused the presidency of killing off a probe by the committee into the deal.

Noteworthy is that the NPA has assembled people who might easily feature as witnesses for either the state or defence. Whatever the tactic, this has the potential of raising the unintended consequence of implicating high-profile government figures and other personalities associated with the saga.

Another potential consequence is that the trial could provide detractors of the arms deal with a long-desired platform denied them by Mbeki when he previously dismissed calls for a judicial inquiry into the saga.

Speculation that Zuma's lawyers are considering calling Mbeki as a witness also adds to the intrigue - as does the possibility of the ANC president using this opportunity to throw a curve ball at his predecessor.

It is almost inevitable that Zuma will not be the only party in the dock, but also the arms deal itself.

If the line-up of state witnesses is anything to go by - this trial will certainly open up the belly of the arms deal's beast for public scrutiny.

X