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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

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Ex-South Africa president Zuma appears in court for resumed graft trial

South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma appeared in court on Tuesday to face multiple charges of racketeering, fraud, corruption and money laundering, as a decade-old trial delayed by procedural bickering resumed.

Zuma is being tried on 16 charges relating to a $2 billion arms deal with French defence firm Thales in 1999, when Zuma was deputy president.

The charges were reinstated in March 2018, a month after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party kicked him out of office after a presidency marked by graft allegations and sovereign credit rating downgrades.

The former leader, in power between 2009 and 2018, rejects all allegations as a politically motivated witch-hunt. But the case is a rare example of an African judicial system seeking to prosecute a former leader for alleged wrongdoing.

Zuma wore a dark grey suit at the court in Pietermaritzburg.

Much of Tuesday’s pre-trial hearing was focused on fixing a date for the trial to continue after multiple efforts by Zuma to cancel or delay it.

Judge Dhaya Pillay did not set a date for the trial proper to start. She adjourned the proceedings until Sept. 8.

The court in November rejected Zuma’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution, and in February issued an arrest warrant for him.

Zuma is accused of accepting 500,000 rand ($34,000) annually from Thales from 1999, in exchange for protecting the company from an investigation into the deal.

Thales, known as Thompson-CSF at the time, has said it had no knowledge of any transgressions by any of its employees in relation to the award of the contracts.

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