The big story: Another day in stalingrad for Zuma

The year is 2082. In an underground bunker at Nkandla, the only structure to survive the effects of climate change, a Zoom call is underway. Those present include several lawyers and a judge. The man on trial has long since passed on, but his legal team’s numerous delay tactics have withstood the test of time.

Made-up apocalyptic scenarios aside, it sometimes feels like convicted criminal, constitutional delinquent and corruption accused former president Jacob Zuma really will avoid having his day in court for as long as he lives and possibly beyond. This week Zuma received a wonderful birthday present: just a day before he turned 80, his long-awaited arms deal trial was meant to begin. Instead, his legal team secured another delay and the trial will allegedly, maybe, possibly potentially but probably not go ahead on 17 May.

Zuma has used several questionable techniques to delay the trial, which relates to the $2billion arms deal, dating back to the 1990s, and includes charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering. The former president denies any wrongdoing. Most recently Zuma has attempted to have lead prosecutor Billy Downer removed; he claims that Downer, who has been on the case for decades, is biased against him.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) opposed Zuma’s application to delay the trial and accused him of abusing legal processes. But the Pietermaritzburg High Court found in his favour and allowed a postponement. Judge Piet Koen argued there was no evidence to show that Zuma was abusing legal processes to get the case postponed, and as a result, the extension was granted. Diarise 17 May, we guess?

In other news from the NPA, National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi is under mounting pressure from civil society organisations to prosecute many high profile figures, like Zuma, who were implicated in Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s State Capture report. This week Batohi, speaking at Stellenbosch University, promised major prosecutions in the next six months. She’s headed the NPA for the past four years and has made similar promises before, so we’re not overly optimistic that this time will be different. Please, advocate Batohi, prove us wrong. 😬

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 11 April  2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.