NewsZuma graft trial resumes after deadly South Africa violence

Zuma graft trial resumes after deadly South Africa violence

-

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: The graft trial of South African ex-president Jacob Zuma resumed on Monday, held online in a bid to forestall another wave of the deadly unrest that swept the nation after he was jailed in an unrelated case.

Although the proceedings were taking place virtually, security was tight around the High Court in the southeastern city of Pietermaritzburg, the capital of Zuma’s home region of KwaZulu-Natal, where Zuma loyalists have previously gathered in rowdy shows of support.

Armed police and soldiers, deployed to quell recent riots, secured the area around the court.

A brown military vehicle towered over armored police vehicles as a helicopter flew above, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, graft, and racketeering related to the 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats, and military gear from five European arms firms when he was deputy president.

He is accused of taking bribes from one of the firms, French defense giant Thales, which has been charged with corruption and money laundering.

The trial started in May after numerous postponements and delays, as Zuma’s legal team worked fervently to have the charges dropped.

Zuma, 79, spoke from his prison in the small town of Estcourt, appearing in a black suit, white shirt, and red tie, sitting on a black office chair in a white-walled room.

He proclaimed his innocence when he appeared in person for the opening in May.  Thales has also pleaded not guilty.

On June 29, Zuma was separately found guilty of contempt of South Africa’s top court for snubbing graft investigators probing his time as president. He was jailed on July 8.

Teflon president

South Africa was then plunged into chaos, with looting and rioting erupting in KwaZulu-Natal as well as in the economic hub of Johannesburg in Gauteng province, claiming more than 200 lives.

The unrest was widely seen as at least partially in response to Zuma’s imprisonment.

Monday’s hearing could reignite tensions that had eased by the weekend, analysts warn.

Zuma is being portrayed by a radical faction of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) as a hero of the poor.

“People will be watching the behavior of judges,” said Sipho Seepe, a fellow of the University of Zululand in KwaZulu-Natal.

“If they feel justice is not done, they will protest.”

Monday’s hearing is expected to focus on an application by Zuma’s legal team for chief prosecutor Billy Downer to recuse himself from the case over claims he leaked information to the media.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it would “vigorously” oppose the application.

The trial is resuming virtually to avoid “disruption”, NPA spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga told AFP, although other court cases are also being heard online due to the pandemic.

Defense lawyers claim the virtual format is unconstitutional and have applied for the trial to be adjourned.

Zuma and his backers have repeatedly dismissed the scrutiny of the ex-president’s conduct as politically motivated and warned his jailing would spark unrest.

But they deny being behind the recent turmoil.

Zuma once dubbed the “Teflon president”, is meanwhile seeking to overturn his 15-month jail sentence.

He was arrested for disobeying a Constitutional Court order to testify before a judicial panel probing corruption during his presidency.

AFP
AFP is a leading global news agency for comprehensive, verified coverage of events shaping the world.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest news

Climate change could trigger internal migration of 216 mln people – World Bank

WASHINGTON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Without immediate action to combat climate change, rising sea levels, water scarcity and declining...

Australia eyes Christmas reopening of international borders

SYDNEY — After more than 18 months of COVID-19 isolation, Australia is preparing to reopen its international borders by Christmas...

Vaccinated pregnant people can pass on Covid antibodies to fetus: Study

Pregnant women who are vaccinated against COVID-19 also pass on the coronavirus antibodies to their unborn children, according to...

End unilateral sanctions on Taliban, China urges G-20

ISLAMABAD — China’s top diplomat Thursday urged a virtual conference of G-20 foreign ministers to end economic sanctions against Taliban-ruled...

Supermodel Linda Evangelista says cosmetic treatment left her ‘deformed’

Kolkata, India: Linda Evangelista, one of the original 1990s supermodels who dominated the catwalk and fashion covers in the...

McD pledges to phase out plastic toys with Happy Meals by 2025

Fast-food giant McDonald's said Tuesday it would phase out plastic toys from its signature Happy Meals by 2025. "Starting now,...

Must read

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you