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Our take: Zuma and the stalingrad tactic

If we had a rand for every time former president Jacob Zuma used a legal delaying tactic we’d be… not rich, exactly, but we could probably afford a pretty fancy generator to dodge load shedding this winter, or a good communications team for the DA.

As we’ve told you before, Zuma’s decades-old arms deal trial is about to kick off. We think. We hope. That’s because, on Monday, when the trial was set to start and we THOUGHT he was without options, Zuma’s new legal team pulled a rabbit out the hat. They want seasoned state prosecutor Billy Downer to recuse himself. We’re waiting to see the actual “special plea” and motivation but political analysts say Zuma may claim that Downer is biased and has a political agenda. 🤦🏽‍♀️ Downer has been on this case for two decades. 

Most experts believe this is yet another “Stalingrad tactic” by Zuma. The approach is named after the famous Soviet Union battle that wore down attacking German forces over five months. But the Soviet Union has nothing on Zuma, who has evaded prosecution with endless appeals to higher courts. Not to mention even becoming state president and ensuring those pesky charges, first brought in 2005, were squashed. 

So, if the Pietermaritzburg High Court turns down his request – which it’s likely to do for various convincing legal reasons – bingo! He may appeal it up to the highest court in the land, the Constitutional Court. Remember this is his right: the system HAS to show he has been given a fair trial. 

When the case does finally get going, it’ll dominate news headlines. 

The arms deal is nearly as old as our democracy, and its sins have haunted us for decades. In the 90s the new ANC-led government acquired military arms we didn’t need with billions of rands we couldn’t afford. From this deal, thousands of rands in bribes from French arms manufacturer Thales were paid to high-ranking ANC politicians, including Zuma through his then financial advisor Schabir Shaik. Thales and Zuma face charges of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering in this trial. 

Recent history has shown the Zondo Commission was wise to Zuma’s delaying tactics and went straight to the Concourt itself when he looked like he was going to try his tricks. Hopefully, something similar can happen this time to speed things up. It’s been 20 years, guys. We’re tired. Phansi Zuma delays, phansi. 👎

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 15 April 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates