The corruption trial in South Africa of former President Jacob Zuma has been postponed again pending the outcome of the ex-leader’s appeal to have the state prosecutor removed from the case.
Zuma was not present in the Pietermaritzburg High Court due to a “medical emergency”, his lawyer Dali Mpofu told the court on Monday.
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His spokesman later said that Zuma had been admitted to hospital for medical tests.
His legal representatives requested that the start of the trial be postponed until the Supreme Court of Appeal decides on Zuma’s effort to have state prosecutor Billy Downer removed from the case.
Zuma accuses Downer of bias against the former leader, and has pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering over a $2bn arms deal in the 1990s. The case is set to resume on May 17.
The delay is the latest of many – it has been nearly 17 years since Zuma was first charged in the controversial 1999 arms deal.
He is charged alongside French arms manufacturer Thales, which is accused of paying bribes to Zuma through his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who was convicted on related charges in 2005.
South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority opposed the application for the postponement, accusing Zuma of delaying tactics to prevent the start of the trial.
While Zuma has publicly said he wants his day in court, he has over the years launched numerous legal actions that have delayed the start of the trial.
Delivering his judgement on Monday, High Court Judge Piet Koen said that while the delay of the trial could lead to frustrations, the current delay was unavoidable as the court had to await the Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision.
Zuma, 79, is currently on medical parole from a 15-month prison sentence following his conviction last year of contempt of court for defying a Constitutional Court order to appear before a judicial commission investigating corruption during his presidential term from 2009 to 2018.
Zuma was imprisoned in July of last year, which set off days of rioting in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces in which shops, warehouses and factories were looted and many burned. More than 300 people died in the unrest.
About three months later Zuma was released on medical parole, for an undisclosed health condition. A subsequent court judgement ruled the medical parole was invalid, but his lawyers are appealing that judgement.