‘There are big people out to get me’
Refusing to fund his legal defence is part of the machinations inside and outside SA aimed at his downfall, he claims
Former president Jacob Zuma says cutting government funding for his corruption trial defence – and court rulings that he pay back nearly R30m in legal bills – is a continuation of political war against him.
“I think it’s part of an onslaught on me politically, to disappear from the scene,” he said in an interview this week.
“It’s not just people here. I think there are also big people behind and outside this country, who are working in collaboration with people here.”
When pushed on who he believes these unnamed “big people” are, or what their motives may be, Zuma declined to comment.
“I will say one day, I can’t now because I’m in the middle of many cases.”
Zuma will in May go to court to fight for a permanent stay of his corruption, racketeering, fraud and tax evasion prosecution, on the grounds that the case against him has been defined by undue delay, political interference and prosecutorial misconducts.
The National Prosecuting Authority insists it is only partially responsible for delays in the case, which originated from charges laid against Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik 17 years ago, and maintains it is in the interests of justice for Zuma to answer the strong evidence against him.
He stands accused of receiving 783 corrupt payments from Shaik, in exchange for furthering Shaik’s business interests, as well as agreeing to a R500,000-a-year bribe from French Arms company Thales in exchange for his political protection from any potential arms deal investigation.
Zuma maintains he is innocent.
But, following a far-reaching judgment by the Pretoria High Court in 2018, he will fight his cause with no legal funding from the state.
The high court ruled that Zuma was not legally entitled to such funding because the corruption he is accused of had nothing to do with his official functions.
The court also ordered that Zuma must repay more than R15m already spent by the state on his defence.
Zuma is trying to appeal that ruling.
“Why am I singled out not to benefit from the state? If I’m right it’s the law that if you are in [the] government and are accused of things related to [the] government, [the] government pays for you, for your fees,” he argues.
“If you lose the case, you then refund [the] government. If you win the case, you don’t. It has been done to many, including former apartheid ministers, on serious matters.
“Why not for me? I think it proves a point that there is a political motive against me, informed by things that many people may not know. I’m sure that if it was not me, this matter would not have arisen.
“Many things have been raised with my name that have not been raised about other people.”
Zuma still maintains that no one in the history of constitutional democracy has been as unfairly treated by the NPA as he has, and insists he should have been tried with Shaik.
“Why didn’t they charge me? By not charging me at that time, they gave me an impression that they felt that if I was there they would not have won the case and they were gambling that if Schabir is alone, he could be convicted, and if he’s convicted, they will then use that … if they had a case then, as they say they did, they should have charged me.”
Zuma maintains the case against him, which was withdrawn by the NPA in 2009 and later reinstated after a number of courts found that decision to be unlawful and irrational, is part of a desperate attempt “to find me guilty of anything”.
“Now, because they haven’t found anything up to now, they think they better put back this old case. Maybe they could be lucky. These days, judgments in this country can be very funny at times. They may be hoping they could have some luck.”
Is there any fear on Zuma’s part that he may face trial, be convicted and sent to prison?
“I don’t have a fear, but looking at how our legal system has been working, anything is possible in this country … but under any normal circumstances, I don’t think there are any reasons why Zuma should go on trial. What for?”