Former president Jacob Zuma’s corruption case has been postponed to November 30.
He appeared in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday on charges relating to a $2.5 billion (about R33 billion) arms deal in the late 1990s, but a judge adjourned the case to allow his legal team to file a permanent stay of prosecution.
Zuma, who appeared in court in a dark suit and red tie, faces 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a deal to buy European military hardware to upgrade South Africa's armed forces after the end of apartheid in 1994.
The case is a rare example of an African leader being held to account for his actions. Zuma, who was ousted by the ruling party in February, denies any wrongdoing.
His lawyer, Mike Hellens, asked the judge to allow the former president’s legal team to file a permanent stay of prosecution against the charges.
Judge Mjabuliseni Madondo said the defence should have adequate time to prepare that application.
The state will then give its response to the application on November 30.
Zuma, who was ousted by the ruling party in February, faces 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a deal to buy European military hardware to upgrade South Africa’s armed forces after the end of apartheid in 1994.
The former president was seen in court shaking hands with his supporters before sitting down.
A supporter of former Jacob Zuma waits for him to speak after his court appearance in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters
Dozens of his supporters held an overnight vigil in the city and hundreds marched to court through the streets of Pietermaritzburg, the capital and second-largest city in the KwaZulu-Natal province, chanting support for Zuma.
Some said the former president, whose nine years in power were marked by economic stagnation and credit rating downgrades, is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.
They carried placards emblazoned with the words: “100% behind H.E. Zuma” and “Solid ANC Leader”.
The speed with which prosecutors have moved against Zuma is a sign of his waning influence since he was replaced as head of state by Cyril Ramaphosa, his former deputy, four months ago.
Ramaphosa has made the fight against corruption a top priority as he seeks to woo foreign investment and revamp an ailing economy. – Reuters