South Africa’s Zuma abandons attempt to halt corruption trial

Ex-president’s office announces withdrawal of appeal from constitutional court against his prosecution for corruption.

Jacob Zuma
Zuma is alleged to have taken bribes of $220,000 related to a $3.4bn arms deal [File: Michele Spatari/Pool/Reuters]

Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s former president, has abandoned a legal bid to halt a corruption trial on charges related to a 1990s arms deal, according to his office.

A statement released by his foundation on Wednesday said the Constitutional Court had accepted the previous day “his withdrawal of the application for leave to appeal” against prosecution.

“This indeed paves the way for him to prepare for the trial and demonstrate that he has never benefited from any arms deal corruption or tried to evade the trial,” it said.

“He hopes that his innocence will indeed be demonstrated for all to see.”

Zuma is alleged to have taken bribes of four million rand ($220,000) related to a 1999 $3.4bn arms deal with French aerospace and defence giant Thales when he was deputy president. He rejects the allegations as a politically motivated witch hunt.

The Supreme Court last month dismissed his application for a permanent stay of prosecution against him. He then approached the Constitutional Court in another appeal bid.

Zuma is scheduled to appear in court to answer the corruption charges on May 6. But it is unclear if the hearing will proceed as the country is under a lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In all, he faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment.

“I hope that our citizens will finally get some certainty and closure as to the real beneficiaries of the arms deal if any corruption in that regard did occur,” Zuma, who was in office between 2009 and 2018, is quoted as saying in the statement.

Source: News Agencies