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.


Pope Francis begins visit to Thailand as faithful jostle for selfies

Updated 20 November 2019

Pope Francis begins visit to Thailand as faithful jostle for selfies

  • Catholics are a tiny minority in mostly Buddhist Thailand, accounting for less than 2 percent of the population
  • Among those welcoming him was his cousin and childhood friend from Argentina, 77-year-old nun Sister Ana Rosa Sivori
BANGKOK: Pope Francis arrived in Thailand on Wednesday to meet with its small but devoted Catholic minority on a seven-day Asian trip that will include a family reunion in Bangkok and take his anti-nuclear message to Japan.
Waiting for a glimpse of the pontiff, excited Catholics thronged around the Vatican’s Bangkok embassy and St. Louis Hospital to take selfies.
“Once in a lifetime, I want to see him and be able receive prayer from him,” said 60-year-old Orawan Thongjamroon outside the Vatican embassy, where she had been waiting since early morning for the papal motorcade.
Catholics are a tiny minority in mostly Buddhist Thailand, accounting for less than 2 percent of the population.
The pope’s plane touched down outside Bangkok around midday and he descended to a red-carpet airport welcome from church leaders for a visit that coincides with the 350th anniversary of the first papal mission in Siam, the former name of Thailand.
Among those welcoming him was his cousin and childhood friend from Argentina, 77-year-old nun Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, who has worked in Thai schools for more than 50 years and will be the pope’s personal translator in Thailand.
The pair, whose grandfathers were brothers, beamed as they made their way over the tarmac through crowds of clergy, children and government officials to a waiting motorcade.
“Dear friends in Thailand and Japan, before we meet, let us pray together that these days may be rich in grace and joy,” read a message on the pontiff’s official Twitter account before he left the Vatican.
At Bangkok’s St. Louis Church, a Thai Catholic woman proudly showed photographs of her and Pope Francis from a visit she made to the Vatican with her husband.
“I never thought that I would have another chance to see him again,” said Nuchnaree Praresri, 49.
But when she was invited to be a cleaner at St. Louis Church for the papal visit, she seized the opportunity.
“This might not be an important role for others, but I’m very proud,” she said.
Catholicism first arrived in Thailand in the mid-1500s with Portuguese missionaries and traders, and Catholics have over the years built respected schools and hospitals.
Pope Francis begins his official program on Thursday when he is scheduled to meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn as well as the supreme Buddhist patriarch before offering mass at the National Stadium.
He will hold another mass at Bangkok’s Assumption Cathedral before leaving on Saturday for Japan, where he will visit the nuclear ground zeros of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.