Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
26 May 2021
10:56 am

Zuma pleads not guilty to all fraud, corruption charges

Thapelo Lekabe

Zuma's statement read that should Downer be recused, he would be entitled to be acquitted, 'on the basis the trial will be unfair.'

Former president Jacob Zuma, who is facing fraud and corruption charges, greets supporters in the gallery of the high court in Pietermaritzburg on 17 May 2021. Picture: Reuters/Rogan Ward

Former president Jacob Zuma has pleaded not guilty to a host of fraud, money laundering and corruption charges racked against him.

Zuma appeared in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg once again on Wednesday morning.

ALSO READ: Is Zuma telling old lies about Bill Downer? The NPA thinks so

Advocate Dali Mpofu said his client would not disclose the basis of his defence regarding any of the charges “at this stage”. 

The former president is on trial alongside his co-accused, French arms manufacturer Thales, which allegedly bribed him in exchange for shielding the company from an investigation into the deal.

Zuma pleaded not guilty to 16 counts including fraud‚ corruption, money laundering and racketeering in connection with the multibillion-rand arms deal the state struck with Thales in the 1990s. Thales also pleaded not guilty and its legal representative, advocate Barry Roux, said they were ready for trial.

Downer’s recusal

Zuma also filed an affidavit last week requesting the high court to recuse prosecutor Billy Downer from prosecuting the case. He also wants the court to acquit him of all charges in the event that his application to remove Downer succeeds.

In a 141-page affidavit he deposed to last week in support of his special plea, Zuma accused Downer of being “obsessed” with the case and having “turned the prosecution into a personal legacy project”.

However, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has defended Downer saying Zuma seemed to be regurgitating old falsehoods in an attempt to delay the trial.

The NPA also complained that it could not respond to Zuma’s application to remove Downer from the trial due to incomplete court documents submitted by his lawyers.

Mpofu motivated on Wednesday that Downer be removed as the prosecutor in Zuma’s case, “as he has no title to prosecute”.

He accused Downer of lacking “independence and impartiality necessary for a lawful prosecution.”

“Downer failed to uphold standards and prosecutorial independence to ensure my trial is fair”.

His opposition to the NPA’s position that my prosecution had been exposed to unlawful political manipulation disqualifies him to participate in the same trial.”

Zuma’s statement further read that should Downer be recused, he would be entitled to be acquitted, “on the basis the trial will be unfair.”

This is a developing story. More to follow.

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Additional reporting by Nica Richards