A mysterious letter, believed to be correspondence between the National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks, surfaced late on Thursday at the ongoing application for a permanent stay of prosecution by former president Jacob Zuma.
At the 11th hour on Thursday, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane who is representing Zuma, in his reply to the State's arguments against the applications by Zuma and his co-accused, French company Thales, attempted to introduce a letter to the proceedings.
Five minutes before the close of the day's proceedings, Sikhakhane told a full bench of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg that he wished to read a letter into the record that spoke of an investigation the NPA was inquiring about in March 2018.
According to Sikhakhane the investigation involved former justice minister Penuell Maduna and former President Thabo Mbeki.
A Hawks spokesperson would not comment on the matter until the letter was on record in court.
News24 understands the letter speaks to Zuma's allegations that there has been a political conspiracy to get rid of him, which led to the charges against him.
The Supreme Court of Appeal has previously ruled that the motivation behind a prosecution is irrelevant and did not cause a prosecution to become unlawful. This was argued by Wim Trengove SC for the State on Thursday.
Said Sikhakhane: "I submitted the facts on which I rely on Monday, and I said the political meddling is obvious."
"This morning, Mr Trengove told the court and he says this on behalf of the NPA, about Mr Maduna... that Mr Maduna's role was minimal, really, it was just to that meeting."
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The meeting referred to was also referenced by Zuma in his replying affidavit, and the State had applied to have the paragraphs struck from the court record. At the start of proceedings on Thursday, the court was told Zuma has conceded to the striking out, and it was left at that.
"In paragraph 141.16 of his replying affidavit Mr Zuma makes the new allegation that the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Dr Maduna, the NDPP (Bulelani) Ngcuka and President Mbeki met with him in an attempt to persuade him to quit politics," the State's heads of argument reads.
In 2015, the Mail & Guardian reported that Zuma said in court papers that Mbeki had offered him a R20-million bribe in 2003 in exchange for him leaving politics.
News24 has confirmed from a well-placed source that this letter speaks directly to the alleged political conspiracy against Zuma.
Sikhakhane said he had asked the NPA lawyers in court on Wednesday if they were aware of the letter.
"The document I am about to read, will tell you that in March 2018, this NPA, that tells you the role of Maduna was limited to that meeting, in 2018, it was still checking facts about that, and asking about an investigation into his involvement and asking about bribes and the involvement of Thabo Mbeki, in a letter, that I want to give to this court on that premise," Sikhakhane said.
This is the only clue as to the contents of the letter.
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Trengove objected, saying Zuma's team should bring an application if they wished to introduce "fresh" evidence so late in proceedings.
"He is wrong to say that I said anything about Mr Maduna, I read from an affidavit before the court, I did not elaborate at all," said Trengove.
The court adjourned with an instruction from the Bench for the lawyers to try reach an agreement over the letter.
If they are not able to, an application will be heard on Friday morning to allow the letter to be heard, and thereafter closing arguments by Anton Katz SC for Thales is also expected.
Zuma plans to address his supporters outside court after proceedings wrap up, News24 understands.