Wednesday, 16 October, 2019

South Africa's ex-president Zuma to face corruption trial

Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta. The Indian-born Guptas are at the centre of a judicial inquiry into rampant graft. FILE
Deanna Wagner | 11 October, 2019, 20:26

Former South African president Jacob Zuma will face trial on corruption charges after a court on Friday dismissed his application to halt the case for good.

Zuma, who is accused of taking bribes from French defence company Thales in the 1990s, sought to have the case permanently dropped in March.

The 77-year-old politician was ousted last year after nearly a decade in power, following a bitter internal battle within the ruling African National Congress party.

In May, his legal team argued the case was politically motivated.

Judges Bhekisisa Mnguni, Thoba Poyo-Dlwati and Ester Steyn ruled against Zuma and Thales and dismissed the application with costs.

"Zuma has said for a long time that he wants to have the opportunity appear in court, but at the same he also tried to delay his appearance".

Zuma, who was in office from 2009-2018, had applied for a permanent stay of prosecution from 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a deal to buy 30 billion rand of European military hardware for South Africa's armed forces in the late 1990s.

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The charges were first brought in 2005.

However they said they were satisfied that the delays would not prejudice the trial.

Thales said it was reviewing the judgement with its lawyers and would assess its legal options.

"There are also other avenues that the man might still use. he can still appeal so it's still going to drag", Dube told AFP, adding that the country may "not yet see him facing his alleged deeds". The ANC party forced him to resign previous year over a separate corruption scandal centred around the wealthy Gupta business family, who won lucrative contracts with state companies and allegedly held sway over his choice of cabinet ministers.

Business lobby group Business Unity SA has described the decision by the US Treasury to sanctioned the Gupta family as the "sort of decisive action we all need", saying it will reinforce SA campaigns to combat state capture and corruption. But he later agreed to return at a future date.

His successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has vowed to crack down on the widespread graft that has eroded support for the ANC, which has ruled the country since the end of the harsh system of white minority rule known as apartheid in 1994.