Former South Africa President Zuma must face trial, judges rule

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Former South African President Jacob Zuma will face trial on corruption charges after a court on Friday dismissed his application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

Zuma, who is accused of taking bribes from French defence company Thales in the 1990s, sought to have the case permanently dropped in March.

It is uncertain how long the trial will last and when South Africans will have answers for a case that has been going on for almost 15 years.

Zuma’s lawyers said the case is politically motivated and the years of delay will result in an unfair trial.

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But the trial is now expected to begin on Tuesday after High Court Judge Willie Seriti ruled Zuma’s “application for the permanent stay is dismissed”.

The judge agreed with the prosecution that parts of Zuma’s arguments to have the case thrown out were “scandalous and or vexatious”.

Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from Pietermaritzburg in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, said the court ruling was handed down in less than two minutes.

“However, the former president has the option to approach the Supreme Court to appeal this judgement and perhaps further delay his day in court,” she said.

“Zuma has said for a long time that he wants to have the opportunity appear in court, but at the same he also tried to delay his appearance.”

The charges

Zuma, 77, has been charged with 16 counts of fraud, racketeering, and money-laundering relating to a multimillion-dollar arms deal dating back to before he took office in 2009.

The charges were first brought in 2005. They were dropped by prosecutors in 2009, shortly before Zuma became president, and reinstated in 2016.

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He 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.

Zuma was forced to resign from office last year over a separate corruption scandal.

Corruption crackdown

His successor as president and head of the African National Congress (ANC) party, Cyril Ramaphosa, has promised to root out corruption as part of a sweeping reform agenda aimed at restoring faith in South Africa‘s government and the country’s dominant political movement.

The ANC won re-election earlier this month, scooping 57.5 percent of the vote to guarantee a sixth straight term in power.

But the result was the worst-ever electoral performance by the party, which has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid 25 years ago, reflecting widespread frustration over rampant corruption and a stagnant jobs market.

South Africa’s economy, the second-largest on the continent, grew just 0.8 percent in 2018.

Overall unemployment hovers at about 27 percent with more than 50 percent of young people out of work.

Ramaphosa has, so far, faced resistance to his reform agenda, especially from Zuma allies who still occupy several high-ranking positions in the party and the government.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/south-africa-president-zuma-face-trial-judges-rule-191011115047683.html

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