Former president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, is currently facing over 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and extortion at the Pietermartizburg High Court. Many of these charges are reportedly from making false income tax returns. Zuma is currently being charged together with French Arms producer Thales.
Jacob Zuma first became involved in a corruption scandal with the help of his financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, who was accused of corruption and fraud in 2004 after extravagent purchases of property and various other lavish luxury items. In court, it was found that Zuma had recieved a bribe of over R500 000 per year from Shaik, as well as other fraudulent transactions. A total of 783 payments were recorded and received by Jacob Zuma, which amounted to an astonishing R4.872 million. Zuma was charged with an additional six deals of money laundering alongside Thales, as payment information was not disclosed. Thales and Shaik were both sentenced to a 15 year prison sentence. However, Zuma was not immediately sent to prison.
President Thabo Mbeki relieved Zuma of his responsabilities as deputy president in 2005, causing Zuma to resign as a representative of parliament. He was then formally charged with corruption in the Pietermaritzburg High Court by the NPA, but proceedings were continuously delayed by Jacob Zuma’s legal team, due to the ex-president’s lack of appearance in court and denial of claims held against him.
The corruption case was re-opened by the Supreme Court in 2007 alongside the NPA to instate search and seizure activities. With this, the NPA could aquire the French Arms company diary which had information about Zuma’s corruption-related deals and caused them to reject four appeals from Zuma’s legal team.
Later, Judge Chris Nicholson declared that his charges of corrution were unlawful as the NDPP did not give him a chance to represent himself before choosing to charge him; a usual requirement of the South African Constitution. The state was forced to pay legal fees due to this. The Judge also believed that political agendas had interfered with the case and was the reason why he was recharged several times. This was challenged by Thabo Mbeki, and the trial was sent to the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2009 in Bloemfontain, where Deputy Judge Louis Harms was made to rule on both features of the appeal.
After this, all charges against Jacob Zuma were dropped due to issues with the prosecution process, in which the prosecution team had conspired against Zuma. This was shown in recorded phone calls found by Zuma’s lawyers. This caused a mass uprising, as Thabo Mbeki and the Democratic Alliance party asked for the case to be re-opened once again to allow Zuma to defend himself against the 783 charges held against him. Despite these charges, Zuma’s political supporters continued to show loyalty, through mass events and riots asking to “free the president”.
On the 16th of March 2018, it was announced that Zuma would be forced to face 18 corruption charges, as well as an additional 700 counts of fraud and money laundering. An authorization to arrest the president for these corrution charges was approved by the court on the 3rd of February 2020.
The case has been closed and re-opened several times since its official opening in 2004, and is currently postponed as Zuma’s lawyers quit unexpectedly. Zuma’s new lawyer, Thabani Masuku, reported that he should be able to stand trial again soon. The court trial is currently on hold, as Zuma claims that the case against him was not a criminal trial but a politically motiviated trial to get rid of him.
The court is still undergoing investigations into more corruption claims held against Zuma, as well as offenses of rape and murder. His next trial will be held on July 19 2021, but with his Stalingrad tactics, who knows if this will go ahead as he carries on denying charges and delaying hearings.