Zuma trial: The plot thickens

High court Judge Willem van der Merwe denied an application by Zuma’s defense team to have the rape case against him thrown out of court on Wednesday, arguing that the ANC chief whip does have a case to answer. The decision came after Zuma’s lawyer, Kemp J Kemp, filed an application last Monday requesting that the case be thrown out for lack of evidence. However in his ruling on Wednesday morning, Judge van der Merwe said he believed there could be more evidence pointing to a “guilty mind” on the part of Zuma with regard to the rape charge. “I cannot agree with the defense that the evidence led by the state was of such a poor quality that it could not be accepted. I cannot ignore the evidence so far led by the state. “The accused is not entitled to his discharge,” van der Merwe said in his ruling. He also added: “…the question in the present matter then remains: Is there evidence on which the accused in this matter might reasonably be convicted? “Put differently, is there a possibility of a conviction even if he does not enter the witness box and then incriminate himself? “Put even more simply, will the accused be convicted at the end of the case if he closes his case without testifying or without leading evidence?” The decision strongly implies that the former deputy head of state will now have to take the stand to clear his name, and prove beyond reasonable doubt that the intercourse he had with his accuser was consensual. The possible alternative could be jail. Media reports quoted insiders of Zuma’s camp as saying the ANC deputy chief was almost relieved by the decision, as it would allow him to present his side of the story and clear his name. Zuma himself has appeared calm throughout the proceedings of his trial, though he now enters what could be the most important part of the entire case against him. Apart from testifying about the events that occurred prior to, during and after the alleged rape on November 2 last year, Zuma now also faces the prospect of being thoroughly questioned about his sexual history and about his HIV status. “While he doesn’t have to do so, it is quite clear that a significant part of the case could hinge on what Zuma has to say for himself. “A lot has been said thus far but as the judge indicated, a lot could depend on what the accused himself has to say about this whole affair,” a legal expert told The Southern Times. While Zuma has put it to the court that he had consensual sex with the 31 year old woman who has accused him of rape, his defense team has battled to explain to the court why he had unprotected sex with her while being aware of the fact that she is HIV positive. The defense’s only submission has been that there was no condom available. Kemp’s application for the discharge of the case was partly based on the weakness of some of the testimonies presented by the prosecution’s witnesses, particularly the investigating officers, who, he alleged, tried to trap Zuma while conducting their investigation. Kemp also accused the woman of being an “accomplished liar”. After being adjourned on Wednesday afternoon, the trial resumes tomorrow amid heightened expectations of Zuma on the witness stand.

April 2006
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