Pietermaritzburg court precinct abuzz ahead of Jacob Zuma appearance

Nivashni Nair Senior reporter
The scene is set outside the Pietermaritzburg high court on Wednesday for pro-Jacob Zuma supporters.
The scene is set outside the Pietermaritzburg high court on Wednesday for pro-Jacob Zuma supporters.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

The Pietermaritzburg high court precinct was abuzz on Wednesday morning before former president Jacob Zuma's court appearance on corruption and fraud charges. 

Hawkers selling ANC memorabilia have set up stalls around Freedom Square, where a stage has been erected for Zuma to address supporters after court proceedings.

Supporters wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Hands Off Zuma” were arriving for what appears to be a large rally. Some had stayed overnight in the precinct.

Zuma arrived at court shortly after 8am.

He will plead not guilty to corruption, fraud and racketeering. However, another adjournment is on the cards.

The matter is expected to be postponed for the National Prosecuting Authority to reply to Zuma's special plea calling for the recusal of state prosecutor advocate Billy Downer.

Zuma states that the lead prosecutor has “no title to prosecute,” that his prosecution is political and that Downer has it in for him.

The adjournment will also allow Zuma's legal team to file proper documentation, as it is believed that the documents filed a week ago were incomplete.

When the proceedings resume, Zuma will have to prove to the court that Downer, who has spent close to 15 years trying to bring him to book, is not entitled to prosecute him.

Zuma's plea is his latest move to put an end to the prosecution. In the past, Zuma’s defence team was accused of adopting a “Stalingrad approach” by launching court applications to delay the start of the corruption trial, while the state has always said it was ready to proceed.

In 2007, Zuma’s then-advocate, Kemp J Kemp, told the Durban high court: “We have adopted a Stalingrad strategy in response to this prosecution ... we will fight [the state] in every street, in every house, and in every room.”

Since then, under instruction from Zuma’s long-time attorney Michael Hulley, his defence team has tried every possible legal avenue to prevent him from being prosecuted.

Zuma is accused of receiving an annual bribe of R500,000 from French arms dealer Thales for protection from an investigation into the controversial arms deal.

The alleged bribe was facilitated by Schabir Shaik, who was Zuma’s former financial adviser.

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