Never mind the charges, why was Zuma in chains?
Duduzane Zuma arrived at his first court appearance for corruption, but all everyone was interested in was his shackles
Former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane arrived at his first court appearance for corruption with leg irons around his ankles, and greeted the journalists seated behind him, while he awkwardly stood in the dock.“Why do you have those around your legs?” one reporter asked. “Do the cops think you’re going to run?”
Zuma’s 34-year-old son, now facing charges that he tried to bribe former deputy Finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, shook his head, clearly uncomfortable with the question.“I actually like this look,” he said, smiling. “They’re like gold chains.”
His humour may have been misplaced, given the seriousness of the case that he faces.The state says Duduzane contravened the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act on October 23 2015, when he “directly or indirectly give or agree or offer to give any unauthorised gratification to wit, the position of Minister of Finance to Mcebisi Jonas, and/or an amount of R600-million and/or an amount of R600,000 for the benefit of Mr Mcebisi Jonas … in order for Mr Mcebisi Jonas to personally act in a manner, to wit to assist Mr Ajay Gupta and/or his associates with his business ventures with government”.In other words, the state says, Duduzane Zuma was a knowing participant in a Gupta plan to buy a Finance minister – months before his father replaced then Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene with Des van Rooyen.Duduzane Zuma’s lawyers have however described the case against the young man as “very weak”, and have stressed that he denies Jonas’s allegations. They’ve also questioned why the state has postponed the case against Zuma junior to January 24 next year, “given that the state has known about this case for over two-and-a-half years”.
The National Prosecuting Authority maintains that the delay is necessary, because it hopes to charge other people in relation to the Jonas case. It’s apparent that Ajay Gupta, the oldest of the brothers, will be at the top of that list.
But, given that the state has yet to make any request for Ajay Gupta’s extradition, it is questionable whether he’ll be in the dock when the state leads Jonas’s evidence.One thing is certain: Duduzane Zuma’s appearance in court marks a significant moment in the NPA’s state capture prosecution campaign. He is the first high-profile figure to stand in the dock in connection with allegations contained in then public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report.
Much of the social media reaction to the case, however, focused on the shackles around Zuma’s ankles, and whether they were necessary or not.
After he was granted R100,000 bail by Magistrate Jeremy Jansen van Vuuren, Zuma junior was filmed shuffling up to prosecutor Bulelwa Vimbane and shaking her hand.“Msholozi!” she said, and smiled.
As he walked away, reporters again asked him about the shackles around his ankles.
“I think it’s procedure,” he said, later adding: “At least this may give me street cred.”
Hours after Zuma junior’s brief court appearance, which lasted less than 15 minutes, the sight of the former president’s son in chains was still provoking discussion on social media.
Union leader Zwelinzima Vavi – once one of Zuma’s most loyal allies and now one of his most strident critics – tweeted: “I want to live in a society based on justice where the principle of equality before the law will be seen to be practiced.
“Shackles should only be used for dangerous criminals who can run away not those who handed themselves over to justice!This is meant to humiliate and is a stunt.”Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi was at pains to deny that the unit’s officers had pushed for Duduzane to be shackled, and stressed that this practice was “standard procedure” at the Commercial Crimes Court.
Mulaudzi was backed up by Duduzane Zuma’s attorney Rudi Krause, who said Hawks officers had in fact tried to negotiate with court staff to stop him from being shackled.
In an account corroborated by Mulaudzi, Krause said court officials had been adamant that every accused appearing at the court, prior to bail being granted, had to be shackled.
“When the officer stated that ... Mr Zuma said he did not want to be seen to be receiving special treatment and insisted that he be shackled too,” Krause said.