South Africa’s ex-President Jacob Zuma faces multiple corruption charges relating to a billion-dollar arms deal in the late 1990s.
Ironiclaly , just weeks ago, he held the highest office in the country. He resigned on February 14, forced out by the leadership of the ruling African National Congress, his own party.
The former President is charged with 16 counts of corruption, money laundering and racketeering, stemming from the billion-dollar government arms deal. He is accused of receiving 783 questionable payments in connection with the deal.
Zuma denies any wrongdoing.
After a brief preliminary hearing, the judge adjourned court proceedings to June 8.
Despite its brevity, the hearing was notable in a continent where leaders — former or current — don’t generally face the law.
Up until his Durban court appearance, Zuma’s legal team had been successful in doing just that with a series of mostly procedural maneuvers.
In court today, his defense team said it would challenge the decision to prosecute.
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Legal experts believe the trial, should it go ahead, could take years.
The prosecution against Zuma is being led by Billy Downer, the experienced advocate who successfully prosecuted Shaik.
But criminal advocates such as Mannie Witz, who has defended everyone from gangsters to soccer stars for four decades, said the state would have its work cut out for it.
“I think they are in for a proper fight. This is going to be a 15-rounder — this is like a heavyweight competition,” he said.
Witz says that no matter what, the law now needs to take its course. “You want to show that everybody is equal before the law and everybody is entitled to his day in court and it doesn’t make a difference if you are the president or ex-president of the country,” he said.