Jacob Zuma parole

Former president Jacob Zuma. – Image: Twitter / @Mahlubi_Stephen

Court rules that French arms firm, along with Jacob Zuma, must face corruption trial in SA

The National Prosecuting Authority said they are “looking forward to the criminal hearing,” as the Thales court challenge represented the last hurdle for Zuma’s corruption trial to proceed.

Jacob Zuma parole

Former president Jacob Zuma. – Image: Twitter / @Mahlubi_Stephen

The KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg has dismissed with costs French arms company Thales’ bid to challenge the racketeering charge it faces along with former president Jacob Zuma.

Thales’ bid to overturn the charge represented the only hurdle in the way of Zuma’s long-awaited trial going ahead.

The State argues that Thales agreed to pay Zuma a R500 000-a-year bribe in exchange for protection from any potential investigation of South Africa’s multibillion-rand arms deal.

Thales, then Thompson-CSF, had scored a R2.6 billion contract to provide four navy frigates to SA’s government in 1997 as part of the corruption-riddled R60 billion arms deal.

The court ruled that Thales will have to face charges in South Africa over the allegedly corrupt payments made to Zuma, which according to News24 occured over a 10-year period between 1995-2005.

Judge Alsa Bezuidenhout said there was reasonable and probable cause to believe that Thales had “directly or indirectly or with common purpose, participated in the enterprise run by Mr Schabir Shaik through a pattern of racketeering activity,” Times Live reported.

Zuma’s trial on charges of corruption, fraud, racketeering, and money-laundering could start as early as next month.

NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said they welcomed the ruling, adding that “we now look forward to the criminal hearing.”

Zuma Shaiked up

Zuma’s then financial adviser Schabir Shaik is alleged to have channeled the kickbacks through his Nkobi Holdings.

Shaik himself was found guilty of soliciting those bribes in 2005, leading to former President Thabo Mbeki firing his then deputy, Zuma.

The former president has throughout the years maintained that he is innocent of corruption, insisting the charges against him are “politically motivated.”

Wasting our time

The original charges against Zuma were controversially dropped shortly before the 2009 elections which saw him become president.

He eventually stepped down as president in February 2018 in the face of tremendous political pressure as the numerous corruption allegations mounted.

Last month, Independent Media reported that Zuma’s eldest son Edward told the publication that the NPA was “wasting our time” and “has never been prepared from day one when they charged Zuma.”

“They have never had a case, they do not have a case, they will never have a case. They’ve never been prepared; it’s all a political ploy to discredit the former president. So I cannot take the NPA seriously anymore because they’re a disgrace to this country.”