South Africa: Zuma trial adjourned, the ANC divided

In South Africa, former President Jacob Zuma appeared on Friday, April 6 before a Durban court to answer charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering. As soon as the proceedings were suspended, Zuma claimed his innocence in front of more than a thousand activists who came to support him in court.

The former President of the Republic is tried in the case of SpyTapes, a case of corruption when signing an arms contract with the French group Thales. The case was postponed several times in 2005, 2007 and 2009. On Friday morning, Judge Themba Sishi did not have a quarter of an hour to order the referral of the case: “This case is adjourned to June 8 and the two accused are released with warning.”

A referral resulting from an agreement between the two parties: first to prepare their arguments, but also because Jacob Zuma appealed the decision of the public prosecutor to reinstate the charges against him, a political decision, did he said to his sympathizers: “This trial is starting again for political reasons. Opposition parties have no real policy. Their policies are nothingness. They have no legitimate arguments in Parliament, or even to win any debate.”

An umpteenth postponement of the trial seen by observers as an additional opportunity for Zuma to save time. His followers, like Sibusiso, will support him whatever happens: “As long as Jacob Zuma is pursued we will come. We do not support him because it is Jacob Zuma, but because we feel that this trial is unfair.”

Problem for Jacob Zuma, if his appeal is rejected before June 8, he will surely run out of ammunition to delay the deadline. Especially since he will probably have to pay his legal fees alone, and no longer via the state coffers.

A lawsuit that will divide the ANC

Friday, more than a thousand supporters were present in court. Some dressed in the colours of the ruling party and brandishing placards “Do not touch Zuma”. The party leadership had yet called on its activists who wanted to support him not to do so on behalf of the movement.

Under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC is trying to regain some credibility with South Africans and to dissociate himself from Jacob Zuma, mired in scandals.

But the reality is that the party is still very divided and Zuma still has many supporters. For the political analyst Lukhona Mnguni, the ANC will have a lot of trouble staying neutral during this trial, and not be perceived as endorsing the actions of the former head of state.

Especially since Jacob Zuma is still represented on many posters. And he is campaigning for the ANC in his home province for the elections scheduled in a year.

Zuma’s appearance, “still a victory”

For anti-corruption activist Dale McKinley, this brief appearance is a good start: “This postponement is a continuation of what Zuma and his team have been doing for 15 years that is, doing everything to prevent justice not be returned. Despite what they claim, that is to say, to explain themselves to a court, they do absolutely everything to avoid that. So, there is no surprise, it is in the continuity of their legal and political strategy which they have dubbed the Stalingrad strategy to drag out this affair until public opinion gets tired or the justice gives up.”

“But it’s still a victory. Even if it will take a few more years, South Africans will get justice. It’s going to be long, it’s about people who have a lot of power. But in the end, South Africans are stronger. And this is the lesson that Zuma learned, when he was president, and now that he is in court, that one day or another, he will have to answer for his actions.”

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