JOHANNESBURG – A South African court on Tuesday postponed once more the trial of former president Jacob Zuma (2009-2018) over corruption allegations related to an arms deal.
The decision taken by Pietermaritzburg’s high court, located in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, came after Zuma’s defense team announced it would file an appeal against the charges.
The trial is set to begin on 4 February.
Judicial authorities on Friday turned down a request filed by Zuma’s attorneys to drop the charges.
The defense lawyers had claimed that the accusations against Zuma were politically motivated and that there was no guarantee of a fair trial.
That verdict paved the way for the trial to begin Tuesday, after a year of postponement and preliminary procedures, but the intention of the defense to appeal the charges before a higher judicial instance prevented that.
Zuma “has been ready to face this trial for over 14 years,” his attorney Thabani Masuku said.
“Mr. Zuma intends to exercise the full extent of his constitutional right(s), which includes (the) right to appeal,” Masuku added.
The defense of former president has until November to file an appeal.
State prosecutor Billy Downer, meanwhile, said during the hearing that he was ready to start the trial, adding that the public attorney will argue against the appeal.
As the hearing was concluded, the former president greeted hundreds of supporters who gathered in Pietermaritzburg to show their support.
Zuma and his supporters claim he has been a victim of a political witch hunt.
The number of the people who gathered to show their support for Zuma has declined as of late, as the former president does not have enough money to hire buses to transport his backers, according to local media.
The former-president of the African nation is facing charges of illicit association, corruption, money laundering and fraud for nearly 800 operations related to an arms accord signed with Thales in the late 1990s when Zuma was deputy president.
The accusation took a complicated judicial path that lasted for a decade, until March 2018, when prosecutors formally pressed charges.
Zuma had been forced to resign a month earlier by his own party in the wake of several corruption scandals.
In parallel to this case, Zuma is being investigated over other corruption allegations.
The most outstanding among these other investigations is known as “state capture,” an alleged corruption plot that beneficiated Zuma and other senior officials and businessmen close to the government during his rule.
In 2016, he was obliged by the Constitutional Court to pay back 500,000 euros he had illegally spent in remodeling his private residence.