A human rights lawyer has volunteered to represent former South African president Jacob Zuma for free in his forthcoming arms deal trial, days after the embattled ex-leader was ditched by his legal team.Richard Spoor said he had offered to represent the former president pro bono at his trial next month where he is facing corruption allegations in a US$2.1 billion arms deal scandal that dates back to 2005 when he was deputy president under President Thabo Mbeki.
“I would be happy to represent the former President on a pro-bono basis,” Spoor said.
According to Spoor, any accused person deserved a legal defence when facing such serious allegations.
Zuma’s former lawyers, Mabuza Attorneys, did not explain the reasons for leaving the former president’s side.
Zuma and French arms company Thales International face one count of racketeering, four counts of corruption and one count of money laundering. The former president alone faces an additional 12 counts of fraud, according to the charge sheet.
The charges relate to alleged payments Zuma received from Thales, through his financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who was convicted in 2005 and served time for the crime before Zuma pardoned Shaik on medical grounds when he was president.
Zuma is accused of offering to use his political influence to protect the Thales from investigations into the arms deal and of trying to solicit a US$70,000 annual bribe from the French firm.
The trial was set to start on 17 May in the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu Natal, but the chances of the proceedings continuing on the day are slim due to the change in the new representation, a law expert said.
“Anybody who takes it on now would just be insane to say that in less than three weeks they would be prepared to bring themselves up to speed with the complexity of what Zuma’s facing,” criminal lawyer James Grant said.
Due to the proximity of the trial date, Spoor is bound to ask for a postponement of the hearings to another date to give him enough time to prepare for the case, Grant said.