South Africa ex-leader Zuma to face corruption trial

Former South African President Jacob Zuma in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg. Jacob Zuma will face trial on corruption charges after the court dismissed his application to have the case against him halted. (AP Photo)
Updated 11 October 2019

South Africa ex-leader Zuma to face corruption trial

  • The country’s High Court unanimously dismissed Zuma’s bid for a permanent stay of prosecution over 16 counts of fraud, racketeering and money laundering
  • Zuma, who has been accused of taking bribes from French defense company Thales, sought in March to have the case dropped

PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa: South Africa’s scandal-plagued former president Jacob Zuma will face a corruption trial, a court ruled Friday, in one of multiple alleged graft cases over his long political career.
The country’s High Court unanimously dismissed Zuma’s bid for a permanent stay of prosecution over 16 counts of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal dating back to before he took office in 2009.
Zuma, who has been accused of taking bribes from French defense company Thales, sought in March to have the case dropped.
He maintained the case was politically-motivated and years of delay would result in an unfair trial.
But the trial is now scheduled to begin on Tuesday after High Court Judge Bhekisisa Mnguni ruled that Zuma’s “application for the permanent stay is dismissed with costs.”
The judge agreed with the prosecution that parts of Zuma’s arguments to have the case thrown out were “scandalous and or vexatious.”
The National Prosecutions Authority’s spokeswoman Natasha Kara told AFP “the matter has been set down for trial from the 15th to the 18th of October.”
Both Zuma and Thales have denied any wrongdoing, and the former president could still appeal the ruling, experts have suggested.
But if it goes ahead, it would be the first time the former leader has stood trial on corruption charges, despite a serious of graft allegations.
State lawyer Wim Trengove had pushed for prosecution arguing that if Zuma did not face trial it gave the impression that he had received special treatment “because he is an important and a powerful man.”
He also said Zuma’s claims that he was a victim of a “witch hunt” were unfounded.
Zuma, who was forced to resign last year over multiple graft allegations, is alleged to have taken the bribes during his time as a provincial economy minister and later as deputy president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the 1990s.
The charges were first brought against Zuma in 2005. They were dropped by prosecutors in 2009, shortly before Zuma became president, and reinstated in 2016.
Thales said in a statement that it “notes the decision of the High Court” and was assessing its legal options.
Political analyst Xolani Dube warned that Zuma could lodge an “urgent” appeal.
“There are also other avenues that the man might still use... he can still appeal so it’s still going to drag,” Dube told AFP, adding that the country may “not yet see him facing his alleged deeds.”
Zuma, 77, claimed last year that he was so broke that he had to sell his socks to raise legal fees, after another court ruled he should front the bills.
The ANC party forced him to resign last year over a separate corruption scandal centered around the wealthy Gupta business family, who won lucrative contracts with state companies and allegedly held sway over his choice of cabinet ministers.
The court’s ruling on Friday came just a day after the US Treasury slapped sanctions on the three Indian-born Gupta brothers, calling them a “significant corruption network” that dispersed bribes and misappropriated millions in state funds.
Zuma also appeared before a judicial inquiry in July that is probing allegations he organized a systematic plunder of government coffers in a scandal known as “state capture.”
A few days later he pulled out of the inquiry saying that he had been “treated as someone who was accused.” But he later agreed to return at a future date.


Meghan seeks to stop tabloid naming friends in UK legal battle

Updated 09 July 2020

Meghan seeks to stop tabloid naming friends in UK legal battle

  • Meghan is taking on Mail on Sunday to court
  • Duchess says 5 friends have right to privacy

LONDON: Meghan, Britain's Duchess of Sussex, on Thursday sought a court order to stop the publisher of the Mail on Sunday tabloid from revealing the names of five friends who could be witnesses in an ongoing legal dispute, according to a court filing.
Meghan, wife of Queen Elizabeth's grandson Prince Harry, is suing publisher Associated Newspapers over articles the Mail on Sunday printed last year that included parts of a handwritten letter she sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018.
Markle and his daughter have not spoken since he pulled out of appearing at her wedding to Harry in May 2018.
The Mail justified publishing the letter by saying five unnamed friends of Meghan had put her version of events in interviews with the U.S. magazine People.
Her legal team say it was untrue she had authorised or arranged for her friends to tell People about the letter, and on Thursday said Associated Newspapers were threatening to publish their names.
"These five women are not on trial, and nor am I. The publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the one on trial," Meghan said in a witness statement to London's High Court reviewed by Reuters.
"Each of these women is a private citizen... and each has a basic right to privacy," she added, saying their names had appeared in a confidential section of her legal papers.
A spokesman for the Mail on Sunday said the newspaper had "no intention" of publishing the names of the friends this weekend, but said it had told Meghan's lawyers that the question of their confidentiality should be considered by the court.
"Their evidence is at the heart of the case and we see no reason why their identities should be kept secret," he said.
Meghan, Harry and their baby son Archie are living in Los Angeles, having stepped down from royal duties at the end of March, partly because of intense media intrusion into their lives.
In documents filed last week as part of Meghan’s privacy case, her lawyers said her friends had spoken out because of the "tremendous emotional distress" caused by "false" British tabloid press articles.
In May, the judge in the case rejected part of her claim that the paper had acted dishonestly and stoked the rift with her father. The full trial is not expected until next year.