South Africa ex-leader Zuma to face corruption trial

Former South African President Jacob Zuma in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg. Jacob Zuma will face trial on corruption charges after the court dismissed his application to have the case against him halted. (AP Photo)
Updated 11 October 2019

South Africa ex-leader Zuma to face corruption trial

  • The country’s High Court unanimously dismissed Zuma’s bid for a permanent stay of prosecution over 16 counts of fraud, racketeering and money laundering
  • Zuma, who has been accused of taking bribes from French defense company Thales, sought in March to have the case dropped

PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa: South Africa’s scandal-plagued former president Jacob Zuma will face a corruption trial, a court ruled Friday, in one of multiple alleged graft cases over his long political career.
The country’s High Court unanimously dismissed Zuma’s bid for a permanent stay of prosecution over 16 counts of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal dating back to before he took office in 2009.
Zuma, who has been accused of taking bribes from French defense company Thales, sought in March to have the case dropped.
He maintained the case was politically-motivated and years of delay would result in an unfair trial.
But the trial is now scheduled to begin on Tuesday after High Court Judge Bhekisisa Mnguni ruled that Zuma’s “application for the permanent stay is dismissed with costs.”
The judge agreed with the prosecution that parts of Zuma’s arguments to have the case thrown out were “scandalous and or vexatious.”
The National Prosecutions Authority’s spokeswoman Natasha Kara told AFP “the matter has been set down for trial from the 15th to the 18th of October.”
Both Zuma and Thales have denied any wrongdoing, and the former president could still appeal the ruling, experts have suggested.
But if it goes ahead, it would be the first time the former leader has stood trial on corruption charges, despite a serious of graft allegations.
State lawyer Wim Trengove had pushed for prosecution arguing that if Zuma did not face trial it gave the impression that he had received special treatment “because he is an important and a powerful man.”
He also said Zuma’s claims that he was a victim of a “witch hunt” were unfounded.
Zuma, who was forced to resign last year over multiple graft allegations, is alleged to have taken the bribes during his time as a provincial economy minister and later as deputy president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the 1990s.
The charges were first brought against Zuma in 2005. They were dropped by prosecutors in 2009, shortly before Zuma became president, and reinstated in 2016.
Thales said in a statement that it “notes the decision of the High Court” and was assessing its legal options.
Political analyst Xolani Dube warned that Zuma could lodge an “urgent” appeal.
“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.”
Zuma, 77, claimed last year that he was so broke that he had to sell his socks to raise legal fees, after another court ruled he should front the bills.
The ANC party forced him to resign last year over a separate corruption scandal centered around the wealthy Gupta business family, who won lucrative contracts with state companies and allegedly held sway over his choice of cabinet ministers.
The court’s ruling on Friday came just a day after the US Treasury slapped sanctions on the three Indian-born Gupta brothers, calling them a “significant corruption network” that dispersed bribes and misappropriated millions in state funds.
Zuma also appeared before a judicial inquiry in July that is probing allegations he organized a systematic plunder of government coffers in a scandal known as “state capture.”
A few days later he pulled out of the inquiry saying that he had been “treated as someone who was accused.” But he later agreed to return at a future date.


Demonstrators besiege Pakistan newspaper second time in a week

Updated 14 min 19 sec ago

Demonstrators besiege Pakistan newspaper second time in a week

  • The protesters on Tuesday had also surrounded the newspaper’s building and criticized an earlier anti-newspaper protest
  • Abbas said police were alerted and he was seeking protection for the staff and building

ISLAMABAD: Dozens of protesters briefly besieged the office of a well-known independent newspaper in Islamabad, chanting slogans against the editor and staff and setting fire to copies of the paper before fleeing.
Friday’s protest was the second incident this week at the offices of the English-language Dawn newspaper. It comes a day after journalists and rights activists rallied in support of the paper and criticized an earlier anti-newspaper protest.
The protesters Tuesday had also besieged the newspaper’s building, demanding that editor Zaffar Abbas and publisher Hameed Haroon be hanged for reporting that the London Bridge attacker was of “Pakistani origin.”
Abbas went on Twitter to condemn what he says was yet another orchestrated demonstration against the paper. He said police were alerted and he was seeking protection for the staff and building.
It was unclear exactly who was behind the protests and authorities have made no arrests in connection with the increasing threats to the newspaper. Dawn has a history of bitter relations with the country’s powerful military.