Former President Jacob Zuma will "probably" land up standing trial and facing conviction in light of overwhelming evidence against him, arms deal whistleblower and former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein says.
Less than two months since his resignation as state president, Zuma is expected to appear in the Durban high court on Friday following a decade-long battle against a flurry of graft charges relating to the notorious multibillion-rand arms deal in the 1990s.
Feinstein, who resigned from Parliament in protest over the ANC's handling of the arms deal saga in 2001, says it is possible Zuma may in due course attempt to strike a deal with prosecutors by offering to spill the beans on others implicated in alleged arms deal corruption, some possibly former "comrades".
In an interview with HuffPost SA in London, where Feinstein now resides and leads Corruption Watch UK, he recalls Zuma threatening to spill the beans as early as 2005, when he was fired as the county's deputy president by then president Thabo Mbeki.
"I could see a situation in which he could try do a deal with prosecutors... in which he agrees to divulge other information. He has always claimed that he has a lot of information about the arms deal... and could try to use that to do some sort of a deal," Feinstein said.
Zuma has been charged with fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering, relating to bribes allegedly paid to him by Schabir Shaik. The latter was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in jail (though spent the bulk of 28 months in hospital before controversially being granted parole on medical grounds in March 2009).
While Shaik was convicted, Zuma has been imbued in protracted legal toing and froing for a decade, ultimately eschewing prosecution for charges Feinstein says are supported by credible and overwhelming evidence. Shaik, despite his extremely close proximity to Zuma at the time, is one person whom Feinstein says is a notable omission from the list of state witnesses who could be called to testify that was circulated last week.
In an alternate scenario, however, Feinstein says he can imagine another situation in which Zuma flees the country altogether, joining his son in what "I assume is Dubai, I guess," he says, chuckling under his breath.
In any case, Feinstein says it is unclear how long Zuma, through his lawyers, will "continue with these ridiculous delaying legal machinations that really have no basis in law and are farcical".
While Zuma's lawyer, Michael Hulley, confirmed that the embattled former president would appear in the high court on Friday, Hulley said he would request that the case be postponed so the legal team could deal with Zuma's review application and opposition parties' applications to have Zuma foot the hefty multimillion-rand bill for his state-funded legal fees.
'They won't mess it up'
Feinstein maintains, in spite of these "delay tactics", that if the "really good people" within the National Prosecuting Authority are given free reign to do their job in the period ahead, there is a strong chance Zuma will stand trial and face conviction.
"I suppose it depends on who takes over the NPA because, as I understand, Shaun Abrahams still has to go," he said.
"I think the people working under him -- the people who contacted me last year asking whether I'd be willing to be a witness -- are really good people. They've been working on this for years and years and years. They're not going to mess it up," he said.
Feinstein says his "strong instinct" is that Zuma would ultimately be convicted and "face the legal consequences of his theft".
"That would be the right outcome for the country," he said.
VIDEO: Judge Chris Nicholson Throws Out Charges Against Jacob Zuma | AP Archive
Reflecting on the impact the arms deal in South Africa has had on the country's democracy, Feinstein said the "sadness of the whole Zuma incident is not that we are more corrupt or worse than anywhere else in the world, it's how quickly we adopted the tawdry global norms of politics and economics".
"It comes back to my experience as an MP, when Mandela used to say to us that we're not leaders, we are servants in Parliament to represent the people who have put us there and who pay our salaries. When we start thinking we're more important than them or that their interests shouldn't be our interests, then we're of no value to anybody," he said.