South Africa’s ex-president Jacob Zuma on Thursday made his first public appearance since his release from prison on medical parole last month to lay charges against a chief state prosecutor.
Zuma walked into a police station in the eastern city of Pietermaritzburg, where he is on trial for corruption, to open a criminal case against advocating Billy Downer for allegedly leaking his medical records.
Zuma stepped briskly out of his vehicle and up to the building’s entrance surrounded by security personnel, according to AFP reporters at the scene.
He was accompanied by one of his daughters and waved to people queueing outside the building as he walked past.
A small crowd of supporters gathered on the street, singing and dancing in Zuma-print t-shirts.
Aged 79, Zuma was released from prison due to ill health two months into a 15-month jail sentence for refusing to collaborate with a graft probe into his 2009-18 presidency.
He was hospitalised from prison and underwent surgery for an undisclosed ailment.
Critics accuse the ex-leader of using ill health as an excuse to further delay a drawn-out corruption trial relating to a 1999 purchase of arms from five European firms.
Deputy president at the time, Zuma is accused of pocketing bribes from French defence giant Thales and faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering.
The trial kicked off this year after decades of postponements and delays.
Zuma wants Downer to recuse himself for allegedly sharing confidential medical information to the media.
The next hearing is set for October 26.
In July, Zuma was found guilty of contempt of court for snubbing a separate inquiry into mass looting of public funds during his rule.
His jailing sparked violent protests and looting in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal that spread to the financial hub Johannesburg in July, claiming over 350 lives.
The long-running corruption trial of South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma over an arms deal dating back more than two decades was postponed on Tuesday to next month after he was hospitalised last week.
The 79-year-old was admitted to hospital for observation on Friday for an undisclosed condition, which prompted Tuesday’s hearing to be held virtually rather than in open court.
“The matter is postponed to 9th and 10th of September, 2021,” Judge Piet Koen declared, pending a medical report on Zuma.
The case has been carrying on for years and suffered a string of holdups.
Wim Trengove, a lawyer representing the state, last month acerbically referred to the postponements as “Stalingrad: Season 27,” apparently referring to an entrenched strategy of delay by the defence.
South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma, jailed for contempt of court last month, was admitted to hospital on Friday, less than a week before he is due in court for a separate graft trial.
The Department of Correctional Services “can confirm that former president Jacob Zuma has today, 6 August 2021, been admitted to an outside hospital for medical observation”, it said in a statement.
Zuma, 79, is scheduled to attend the resumption of a long-running corruption trial on August 10.
The hearing will include a plea to drop 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering against him related to the 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and equipment from five European arms firms when he was deputy president.
He is accused of taking bribes from one of the firms, French defence giant Thales, which has been charged with corruption and money laundering.
Proceedings have been repeatedly postponed for more than a decade, sparking accusations of delaying tactics.
The dragging corruption trial of South Africa’s jailed ex-president Jacob Zuma resumes on Monday despite deadly violence that swept the nation after his imprisonment in an unrelated case.
Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, graft, and racketeering related to a 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats, and military gear from five European arms firms when he was South Africa’s deputy president.
He is accused of pocketing four million rand ($277,000) in bribes from one of the firms, French defence giant Thales, which has been charged with corruption and money laundering.
The trial started in May after numerous postponements and delays, as Zuma’s legal team worked fervently to have the charges dropped.
The 79-year-old Zuma appeared in person for the opening and said he was innocent.
Thales also pleaded not guilty, and the next hearing was set for July 19.
But things took a nasty turn when on June 29, Zuma was found guilty of contempt of South Africa’s top court for snubbing graft investigators probing his tenure as president. He was jailed a week later.
The incarceration sparked protests in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), which snowballed into a week of deadly outbreak of looting and arson that spread to the economic hub Johannesburg, claiming over 200 lives.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who came to office promising to curb graft, said the riots were a “coordinated and well-planned attack” on the country’s young democracy.
“Using the pretext of a political grievance, those behind these acts have sought to provoke a popular insurrection,” Ramaphosa said on Friday night.
Monday’s hearing could reignite tensions that had eased late last week, analysts warn.
Stability at stake
“People will be watching the behaviour of judges,” said Sipho Seepe, a fellow of the University of Zululand in KZN.
“If they feel justice is not done, they will protest,” he said.
Monday’s hearing will focus on an application by Zuma’s legal team to recuse chief prosecutor Billy Downer for allegedly leaking information to the media.
“We will argue vigorously for the application to be dismissed,” National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga told AFP.
The trial will be heard virtually to “avoid disruption”, said Mhaga.
Zuma and his supporters have repeatedly decried all these probes as politically motivated and warned his jailing would spark unrest.
But they deny being behind the recent turmoil.
Carl Niehaus, a close friend of Zuma, told reporters this week that there was no “coordinated campaign to lead to looting and violence”.
“There is however an uprising of people who are deeply concerned and angered by [his] imprisonment.”
‘Ride the storm’
Zuma, once dubbed the “Teflon president”, is meanwhile seeking to reverse his 15-month jail sentence.
He was arrested for disobeying a Constitutional Court order to testify before a judicial panel probing the plunder of state coffers during his nine-year rule.
Most of the transgressions investigated by the commission involve three brothers from a wealthy Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative government contracts and were allegedly allowed to choose cabinet ministers.
Zuma only testified once in July 2019.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party forced Zuma — who is a member of the country’s dominant Zulu ethnic group — to resign in 2018 after mounting graft scandals.
But Zuma has retained a fervent support base within the ANC and among the general public, viewed by many as a “people’s man” and a defender of the poor.
Ralph Mathekga, author of “When Zuma Goes”, says judges in the graft case will not bow to “political pressure”.
“Not prosecuting Mr Zuma will have serious implications for the rule of law,” he told AFP. “The judiciary is going to have to ride the storm.”
Supporters gathered outside the rural home of South Africa’s ex-president Jacob Zuma on Friday in a show of solidarity as he faced a deadline for surrendering to police for contempt of court.
In an unprecedented ruling, the Constitutional Court on Tuesday handed Zuma a 15-month jail term for repeatedly refusing to comply with an order to appear before graft investigators.
If the 79-year-old fails to turn himself in by Sunday, police will be given a further three days to arrest him and take him to jail to start the sentence.
Local media on Friday said that according to a warrant of committal, Zuma would be taken to Westville Prison, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Nkandla in southeastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province.
About two dozen women who said they travelled more than 300 kilometres (190 miles) overnight from O.R. Tambo district in the neighbouring Eastern Cape province camped at the entrance to Zuma’s home.
“We support Zuma and we want to know what is going to happen with him, which is why we are here,” 43-year-old Cecilia Nongce told AFP, wearing a traditional Nguni blue-and-red blanket to ward off the cold.
“We love Nxamala,” she said in Zulu, referring to Zuma by his clan name, adding that they hoped he would come out to speak to them.
A South African court on Thursday dismissed former president Jacob Zuma’s attempts to appeal against a high court order to pay his own legal fees, estimated at around 10 million rand ($727,200).
The South African constitutional court in the economic hub of Johannesburg dismissed his appeal “with costs”, including the fees of two lawyers, in a virtual online hearing.
The ruling upheld judgments from two lower courts that Zuma pay the costs out of his own pocket.
Zuma had appealed against a high court judgement against him in 2018 after he failed to stop the release of a report written by an anti-corruption watchdog that charactered him as a kingpin of patronage and malfeasance.
He argued that as he had been acting in his capacity as the president at the time, the state should pay the costs.
But applicants in the case on Thursday, including two opposition parties and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), argued that Zuma had not even managed to file some of the required documents for his argument.
Both the embattled former president and his lawyers were absent from the virtual proceedings.
The ruling is a blow for the 79-year-old Zuma, who is also fighting corruption charges in a criminal trial relating to an arms deal, which began on Tuesday following a two decade delay.
Zuma denies 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to the 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military gear from five European arms firms for 30 billion rand, then the equivalent of nearly $5 billion.
In April, the Supreme Court of Appeal turned down Zuma’s appeal of a personal cost order relating to his corruption trial.
Here again, he was trying to overturn a Pretoria High Court ruling directing him to pay back the state more 16 million rand ($1.16 million) in legal fees.
Zuma was forced to step down in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party after a nine-year reign marked by corruption allegations and dwindling popularity.
A judicial panel probing runaway graft on Monday asked South Africa’s top court to jail ex-president Jacob Zuma for two years for defying a court order compelling him to testify.
The 78-year-old had “intentionally and unlawfully failed to appear” on 15 to 19 February 2021 or to supply affidavits, the commission said as it filed an urgent application with the Constitutional Court.
Zuma has played cat-and-mouse with the commission since it was set up in 2018 to investigate the plunder of state coffers during his nine-year rule.
He has repeatedly snubbed summonses by the commission, claiming its chair Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is biased, and testified only once in July 2019 before staging a walkout days later.
In the latest showdown, Zuma refused to show up despite the Constitutional Court ordering him to do so.
The defiant Zuma said he did not fear being arrested, convicted or incarcerated.
In a 12-page statement last week, Zuma accused Zondo of “political propaganda.”
“Some judges… have assisted the incumbent president to hide from society what on the face of it seem to be bribes obtained in order to win an internal ANC election,” he added, without naming names.
Earlier on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa pushed back on attacks on the judiciary after Zuma accused judges of political bias.
He said such attacks, without evidence or being referred to relevant authorities, were “deeply disturbing” and could erode trust in the judiciary and constitutional order.
“We should… be concerned when those who occupy prominent positions in society make statements that demonstrate a disdain for the basic principles of our constitution and the institutions established to defend our democracy,” said Ramaphosa in his weekly newsletter.
The president also said the attacks should not be taken lightly and warned those who make them of possible consequences.
There has been a growing push, including from within the ruling African National Congress (ANC), to compel the ex-leader to obey court orders.
The ANC’s top leadership is reportedly lining up a meeting with Zuma to resolve the impasse with the anti-graft commission.
On Tuesday he is due in court over a second, unrelated corruption case dating back more than 20 years, when he was deputy president.
In that case, he is accused of taking bribes of four million rand ($220,000/200,000 euros) in a $3.4-billion arms deal with French aerospace giant Thales.
Zuma was forced to resign in 2018 over mounting graft scandals.
The chair of a South African judicial panel investigating mass state corruption said Monday he would seek jail time for embattled former president Jacob Zuma over contempt of court after he again failed to appear before the commission.
The 79-year-old Zuma, who has snubbed previous summonses by the commission, refused to comply with a Constitutional Court order for him to appear on Monday before the panel probing graft during his nine-year tenure.
The commission’s chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, vowed to seek to have Zuma charged with contempt of court.
“The commission will approach the Constitutional Court and ask it to impose a term of imprisonment on Mr. Zuma if it finds that he is guilty of contempt of court,” Zondo said.
The court in January ruled that Zuma had no right to remain silent during the proceedings.
The ex-president accused the commission of bias and demanded that Zondo recuse himself.
In a letter on Monday, Zuma’s lawyers said their client “would not be appearing before the commission” which had set aside February 15 to 19 for his testimony.
Zuma, who had approached the High Court to examine Zondo’s refusal to step aside, argued that appearing before Zondo would “undermine and invalidate the review application”.
Zondo dismissed Zuma’s argument, saying the apex court’s decision was supreme and that he would seek to have him charged with contempt of court.
– ‘Right to silence’ – In the two-page “matter of courtesy” letter, Zuma’s lawyers concluded that his refusal to testify should not be “construed to suggest any defiance of a legal process.”
But the commission’s advocate Paul Pretorius said it was in the public interest for Zuma to testify because he was president at the time of the alleged state corruption.
Zuma has been implicated in evidence from some 40 witnesses, to which he is expected to respond.
“Mr. Zuma, perhaps more than anyone else is able to assist the Commission in understanding what happened in the period under review,” Pretorius said.
“It is difficult to understand why he would need to rely on a right to silence.”
Zuma’s refusal came a day after the ruling African National Congress stressed the need for all its members to cooperate with the commission.
“To allow anything else would lead to anarchy and open the floodgates easily for counter-revolution,” the ANC said in a statement on Sunday.
Meanwhile local media showed images of dozens of people, some wearing military regalia and ANC party gear, staging a vigil in support of Zuma outside his rural homestead in Nkandla in southern Kwa-Zulu Natal province
The group chanted and performed the “toyi-toyi” dance, a protest move synonymous with the struggle against apartheid.
Zuma, who came to power in 2009, was forced to resign in 2018 over graft scandals involving an Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative contracts with state companies and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.
He set up the commission shortly before his ouster and only testified before it once in July 2019, but staged a walkout days later.
A South African commission hearing testimonies about rampant state corruption during Jacob Zuma’s reign said Monday that it would ask police to investigate the former president after he walked out last week.
After months of playing cat-and-mouse, Zuma appeared before the panel last week seeking what he called an “impartial” judge, demanding that the commission’s chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, recuse himself.
But Zondo tossed out his application on Thursday, saying it “failed to meet the test for a reasonable apprehension of bias.”
Shortly after the ruling, Zuma’s lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane told Zondo that he would report him to the judiciary watchdog on the grounds that he had “become a judge in a dispute that involves yourself”.
The commission took a few minutes recess, after which Zuma and his lawyer did not return.
Zuma had been expected to be requested to take to the witness stand.
On Monday, the commission announced it would “lay a criminal complaint with the South African police against Mr Zuma so that the police can investigate his conduct”.
The commission will now issue summons to force Zuma to return to testify.
Judge Zondo said Zuma’s behaviour risks sending a wrong message to the rest of the witnesses that if they were uncomfortable to answer questions they could simply excuse themselves and “can come and go as they please”.
“If that were to happen this commission would not be able to operate,” Zondo said.
“It is therefore quite important for the proper functioning of this commission that Mr Zuma’s conduct be dealt with in a manner in which our law provides.”
The panel, which has been hearing testimonies since 2018, said it will also urgently approach the country’s top tribunal, the Constitutional Court, seeking an order that will compel Zuma “to comply with the summons”.
Zuma is suspected of enabling the widespread looting of state assets during his 2009-18 presidency.
Lavish government contracts were awarded to an Indian business family, the Guptas, among other scandals.
– ‘Godfather of S.African politics’ – The 78-year-old has only testified to the commission once, in July 2019, but pulled out after a few days, saying he was being treated as an “accused” rather than as a witness.
At least 34 witnesses have directly or indirectly implicated Zuma, who has denied any wrongdoing.
In the face of the corruption scandals, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) forced Zuma to step down in February 2018.
He was succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa, who has vowed to confront the “scourge” of corruption.
The commission hearing has turned into a new political battleground, according to Xolani Dube, a researcher with the Durban-based Xubera Institute.
Former South African president Jacob Zuma must pay back state funds and cover his own costs, a court ruled on Thursday, leaving him facing massive legal bills as he fights graft charges.
Zuma, who was ousted in February over multiple graft scandals, could be liable for a $2 million legal bill but that figure would rise sharply, according to local media.”The state is not liable for the legal costs incurred by Jacob.
Mr Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma in his personal capacity in criminal prosecutions instituted against him,” judge Aubrey Ledwaba said in his ruling at the High Court in Pretoria.
The judge also ordered the recovery of state funds previously spent defending Zuma, ruling in a case which was brought by opposition parties.
Zuma is expected to appeal.
His ruling African National Congress (ANC) party said that Zuma had done nothing wrong as the court had only just ruled.
“Nothing was wrong until today… We will need to study this order,” acting party spokesman Dakota Legoete told the eNCA broadcaster.
But the main opposition Democratic Alliance party said in a statement that Zuma’s “system of corruption” had been shut down by the ruling.
“(The system) where those who loot the state are then able to defend themselves using public money has been stopped today,” the party said in a statement.
Zuma, who is thought to have little personal wealth, is due back in court in May for a hearing on whether the corruption charges against him should be dropped.
The former president, who served from 2009 until earlier this year, is battling to quash the charges against him over a $2.5-billion corruption case linked to a 1990s arms deal.
He has been charged with 16 counts of fraud, racketeering and money laundering.
He is accused of taking around four million rand ($340,000, 280,000 euros) in bribes from French defence company Thales.
Both Zuma and the French arms maker deny all charges.
The charges were first brought against him in 2005 but dropped by prosecutors in 2009 shortly before he became president, before being reinstated in 2016.
Beset by scandal, Zuma was forced to resign after a long stand-off with the ruling ANC party.
His successor Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to root out corruption in government and the party.