Zuma wields Abrahams letter to get him off the hook
It’s now a matter of whether or not the court will admit the evidence penned by the former prosecutions boss
Former president Jacob Zuma’s lawyers are fighting to introduce a letter – understood to have been written by former prosecutions boss Shaun Abrahams shortly after he decided to reinstate charges against Zuma – as evidence in his battle to permanently stop his corruption prosecution.
But the state objected to Zuma’s advocate, Muzi Sikhakane, reading the contents of the Abrahams letter – in which he is believed to ask the Hawks to conduct further investigations into accusations raised by former Thales lawyer Ajay Sooklal – into the court record.
Sooklal is the lawyer who helped produce evidence implicating Zuma in corruption in the 1999 arms deal.
State counsel Wim Trengove said Zuma’s legal team would need to apply for the letter to be admitted into evidence.
If the letter is admitted as evidence, Zuma’s legal team contends it could help his case in proving there was a political conspiracy against him.
The Pietermaritzburg High Court was adjourned on Thursday to allow the state and the defence to discuss a possible resolution of the impasse, which could see the letter either read out in court or thrown out as inadmissible.
Sooklal, meanwhile, has publicly confirmed he will be a state witness against Zuma and Thales, should the case against the pair proceed.
In his affidavits to the Hawks, he reportedly claimed Thales paid a €1m donation to the ANC, in exchange for the state dropping charges against it in October 2004.
Sikhakhane contended on Thursday that he had a letter – emanating from the NPA – that specifically raised concerns about the role former justice minister Penuell Maduna played in the dropping of charges against Thales. This resulted in the arms company not being charged with Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik.
Sikhakhane suggested the letter countered claims by the state that Maduna played a “minimal role” in the Zuma prosecution. Rather, it showed that – as late as March last year – the NPA had asked that bribery allegations be investigated.
Times Select understands Abrahams asked the Hawks to investigate a number of Sooklal’s claims under oath, including that former president Thabo Mbeki allegedly confirmed to Thales CEO Jean-Paul Perrier that former French president Jacques Chirac had discussed the company with him and that he would allegedly instruct Maduna and other senior ANC officials to look into withdrawing charges against the company.
Sooklal also claimed Maduna was allegedly paid €50,000 for his role in getting the charges dropped.
The revelations about the mysterious NPA letter came after advocates for the state on Thursday faced numerous questions about why former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka did not pursue corruption charges against Thales when its representative, Alain Thethard, reneged on an agreement to co-operate with the state’s investigation into Shaik.
Thethard had initially confirmed he was the author of the so-called “encrypted fax” used to prove that Thales had agreed to a R500,000 annual bribe for Zuma, in exchange for his protection from any potential arms deal investigation. He retracted this evidence a month later.
Judges Esther Steyn and Bhekisisa Mnguni questioned NPA advocate Andrew Breitenbach on why, given that the state knew long before the case against Shaik commenced that Thethard had been dishonest, the state still chose to not pursue the company for corruption.
Breitenbach argued that Ngcuka had chosen to honour the deal the state had with Thales, partially because of concerns that pursuing the company may result in delays in the Shaik prosecution.