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Zuma graft trial over arms deal postponed to February


Former South African President Jacob Zuma (C) arrives Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg, on November 16, 2020. – After repeatedly refusing to appear, Zuma requested that the head of a commission investigating rampant state corruption during his nine-year reign recuse himself. (Photo by Guillem Sartorio / AFP)

The corruption trial of South Africa’s embattled ex-president Jacob Zuma and French arms manufacturer Thales, which was due to resume this week, has been postponed to February, the high court ordered Tuesday.

Zuma, in power from 2009 to 2018, faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment.

He allegedly took bribes of four million rand ($220,000 / 200,000 euros) over a $3.4-billion arms deal with French aerospace and defence giant Thales in 1999, when he was deputy president.

Judge Nompulelo Radebe of the Pietermaritzburg high court said, “the matter is postponed provisionally to 23 February 2021 for the resolution of… outstanding pre-trial management issues.”

Neither Zuma nor a representative from Thales were present in the dock.

Radebe said the delay would allow time for both the defence and prosecutors to request further details in the matter, including the trial letter.

Clarity on the restrictions on international travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic will also be sought, as some witnesses live abroad.

Zuma was forced to step down in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) after a nine-year reign marked by corruption allegations and dwindling popularity.

His successor Cyril Ramaphosa made the fight against graft the cornerstone of his presidency.

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