Former South African President Jacob Zuma was back in court on Tuesday as the start of his trial for graft, racketeering and money laundering charges inched closer, a decade after prosecutors tried to shelve the case amid allegations of political interference.
The hearing in the High Court in the eastern town of Pietermaritzburg comes after Zuma lost a bid in the same court last week to have it scrapped — a ruling he may seek to challenge. The Supreme Court of Appeal confirmed two years ago that a decision in 2009 not to pursue the case was “irrational.”
The case is a boon for Zuma’s successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is under pressure to follow through on a pledge to tackle corruption, as was the sparsity of supporters for the former leader inside and outside the court, where in the past he attracted thousands of backers.
Prosecutors spent eight years investigating allegations that Zuma, 77, took R4.07 million in bribes from arms dealers. They abandoned the case months before he became president in 2009, saying taped phone calls indicated that the chief investigator may have used the case to frustrate Zuma’s efforts to win control of the ruling African National Congress.
The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, successfully challenged the decision to drop the charges.
The ANC forced Zuma to step down under threat of impeachment in February last year to stem a loss of support after a string of scandals during his nine-year tenure and replaced him with Ramaphosa, who had won the party leadership two months earlier. Zuma denies wrongdoing and says the allegations against him are part of a political conspiracy.
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