Quote of the week

Senekal last week had nothing to do with solutions. It was all about politicians’ testosterone. It was all about politicians’ egos. What useful idea came out of all that heat and noise generated by all those politicians in Senekal last week? There is nothing. Nothing that makes SA a better place. Nothing that leads us to a better understanding of race relations in SA after 1994. Nothing that is a solution to farm murders – many of whose victims are poorly paid, desperate black people – or a solution to the incredibly horrendous murder and crime problem in this country.

Justice Malala
Sunday Times Daily
29 January 2007

Zuma will play for time

If Mr Jacob Zuma is recharged by the NPA later this year as is generally expected, Mr Zuma’s lawyers will most probably launch an application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

They will therefore probably be just as eager as myself to get their hands on a copy of the judgment by Acting Judge Anton Van Zyl, handed down in the Durban High Court last week in which he dismissed an application for a permanent stay of prosecution by disbarred Durban lawyer, Ian Stokes.

Stokes had made the application before the commencement of his fraud and theft trial in June last year, alleging that documentation crucial to his defence was taken from his offices by some of his accusers and that it would therefore be impossible to have a fair trial.

Unfortunately I have not read the judgment (please email if you have a copy) but in a report in The Mercury the judge is quoted as saying that such applications for permanent stay of prosecution were rarely granted because they were ‘drastic’, affected the public view of the criminal justice system and affected complainants. According to The Mercury report:

‘I am not satisfied that the applicant has demonstrated that a fair trial cannot take place,’ he [the judge] said. The judge said the right to a fair trial was a broad concept which also took into account the interest of justice, of the public and of the state. He added Stokes’ right to a fair trial did not cease because this application had been refused.

This judgment seems to confirm what I had written before, namely that it would be very difficult for Zuma’s lawyers to get a permanent stay of prosecution. Is there a judge in South Africa that would rule that it is in the interest of justice to halt a prosecution like that of Zuma?

A judge would almost certainly rule that allegations of actions affecting the fairness of a trial can and should be raised during the trial where a trial judge would properly deal with such allegations.

Mr Zuma’s lawyers may nevertheless bring such an application even knowing that it has a negligible chance of succeeding. There are at least two reasons for this.

First, such an application will play well with Mr Zuma’s supporters and will help to perpetuate the idea amongst the true believers that there is a conspiracy out to get him and that he is being treated unfairly.

Second, it will take up some valuable time which would help to push back the commencement date of the actual trial to after the December ANC conference. Mr Zuma cannot afford for the trial to start before the conference because that would bring daily news reports of the shocking evidence presented by Billy Downer and the prosecuting team.

Even ANC delegates harbouring deep suspicions about an Mbeki conspiracy, may think twice about voting for Mr Zuma as ANC President, if they are confronted every day with evidence of the tawdry relationship between Mr Zuma and Mr Shaik.

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