The Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge has granted former president Jacob Zuma’s request to move virtual arms deal corruption plea hearing to open courtroom, ostensibly in front of a public gallery.
This came after Zumba’s lawyers filed papers objecting to a virtual hearing last month, resulting in a three-week adjournment for judgement.
Zuma’s hearing, which is due to begin on August 10, 2021, is now open to the public in compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
The former statesman, who is serving 15 months in prison for defying a court order, will be transported to court during the hearing.
Judge Piet Koen ruled that the COVID-19 Disaster Management Act rules must be rigorously followed at all times, notably those concerning the wearing of face masks, preserving social distance, and limiting the number of attendees at indoor venues.
The judge has revoked the order to continue the virtual trial, but he cautioned that the appearance could still be amended at any time if circumstances warrant it.
While Zuma’s supporters are being mobilised to gather in large numbers in Pietermaritzburg through social media, security is anticipated to be beefed up to ensure a calm hearing.
“The hearing of President Jacob Zuma will take place at an open court in Pietermaritzburg on August 10, following the submission of our competent legal team,” said Jacob Zuma Foundation.
Zuma’s lawyers argued in his defence that his hearing would not be held virtually as it would be unconstitutional for him to testify from prison.
“Every accused person shall receive a fair trial, which includes a hearing in public before an ordinary court,” lawyers argued, quoting Section 35 (c) and (e) of the Constitution.
“Mr. Downer, your case is going to be handled properly now,” Advocate Dali Mpofu SC can’t wait to get started, “the Foundation tweeted.
In a scathing attack in a previous court proceeding, Zuma claims State prosecutor Billy Downer is biased and unfit to handle what’s arguably the long-running case in the country.