Former president Jacob Zuma and French arms dealer Thales will finally go on trial in May.
The corruption case against the two came before Judge Nkosinathi Chili, sitting in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg, briefly on Tuesday morning. The accused were not in court but were represented by their legal teams.
The case was last in court in December, when it was postponed to Tuesday for various pre-trial issues to be resolved and for the trial dates finally to be set.
On Tuesday, state advocate Billy Downer told the court the parties were now all ready to proceed to trial and had agreed to set the matter down from 17 May until 20 June this year.
He said, however, that there were more than 200 state witnesses and that the trial would in all likelihood run over two terms so further dates are expected to be added after June.
Zuma is facing 16 counts – including fraud‚ corruption, money laundering and racketeering – relating to the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal struck with French arms company Thales, back when he was KwaZulu-Natal’s MEC for economic development in the 1990s.
Thales, meanwhile, is facing four counts.
Among the allegations is that the former president received an annual kickback of R500 000 – paid through his former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik – in exchange for shielding Thales from an investigation into the deal and he is said to have accepted a total of 783 dodgy payments from the company.
Last month, the court dismissed Thales’ challenge to the racketeering charges and the company has since indicated it does not intend on appealing the ruling.
In the meantime, Zuma is also staring down the barrel of a potential two years in jail for contempt of court. This after he last week refused yet again to take the stand at the state capture commission of inquiry, despite the Constitutional Court having last month ordered him to comply with the commission’s instructions.
The commission this week brought an urgent application to have him held in contempt of court and jailed for 24 months.