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Zuma objects to three-judge Bench

Publish date: 13 May 2019
Issue Number: 823
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa

With less than two weeks to go before the hearing of former President Jacob Zuma’s application for a permanent stay of his prosecution on corruption charges, his lawyers have formally objected to the decision to increase the Bench that will decide his fate from one to three. Business Day notes Zuma’s lawyers appear to believe that his application does not justify a full Bench. In a letter to KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg) Judge President Achmat Jappie, Zuma’s attorney, Daniel Mantsha, asks him to provide ‘reasons for such a decision … in order to determine how best to proceed with this matter’. He also states that although lawyers for Zuma’s co-accused, French arms company Thales, was notified of this change in April, ‘we have not received any formal notification of the decision by the Judge President changing the panel hearing our client’s application'. He adds: ‘Obviously and unsurprisingly, the state and the attorneys for the first accused (Thales) do not object to this change of the panel about which only they have been informed by the honourable court. We register our objection to the manner in which this has been handled without seeking our views …’ Both Zuma and Thales, the company accused of offering him a R500 000 a year bribe to protect it from potential investigations into the multibillion-rand arms deal, are fighting for the decades-old cases to be permanently dropped. But while Thales appears to have no issue with three judges making that call, Zuma’s legal team has repeatedly stated that only the judge who has been handling the case thus far, Deputy Judge President Mjabuliseni Madondo, should rule on the case. They made it clear that they regarded any change to the Bench as ‘an irregularity and tampering with a panel of an already constituted criminal court’.

Full Business Day report