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Delay in ex-South African leader’s case as appeal planned

Court proceedings for former South African President Jacob Zuma were pushed back to February 4 on Tuesday as his legal team said it would appeal against an earlier court ruling that dismissed his attempt to halt prosecution on corruption charges.

Zuma faces charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering related to a 1999 arms deal. He is accused of receiving bribes from French arms manufacturer Thales through his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who was convicted of fraud and corruption in 2005.

He is alleged to have profited four million rand ($270,000) from the kickbacks.

His legal team has until the end of this month to appeal last week’s High Court ruling, which found that the allegations against him were serious.

The former president, who denies wrongdoing, has argued that the case has been prejudiced by long delays and that there has been political interference in his prosecution.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party forced him to resign as president last year after a nine-year reign marred by corruption allegations and diminishing popularity.

Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering related to the arms deal struck when he was deputy president to the country’s second black president, Thabo Mbeki.

Shortly after Zuma became president in 2009, his aide Shaik was released on medical parole.

Analysts have warned that if Zuma goes on trial, he will drag down with him many leaders of Nelson Mandela‘s ANC, which has governed the country since the end of apartheid in 1994.

‘The king of corrupt people’

Zuma has also been accused of overseeing the mass looting of state assets during his nine-year presidency.

High on the list of alleged benefactors is the wealthy Indian-born Gupta business family, who were accused of unfairly obtaining lucrative government contracts and even influencing Zuma’s ministerial appointments.

The country’s former anti-corruption watchdog head Thuli Madonsela accused Zuma of being an integral player who opened the doors for individuals and private companies to loot state resources.

After duelling with Madonsela in the courts, Zuma was ordered to appoint a commission of inquiry into the corruption scandal – commonly known as “state capture”. It has been hearing testimonies since August last year.

Zuma appeared at the inquiry in July, putting on a defiant performance and denying all wrongdoing.

“I have been vilified, alleged to be the king of corrupt people,” he said, adding that he had been the victim of “character assassination over 20 years”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over from Zuma, has promised to tackle deep-seated corruption but faces opposition from senior powerful ANC members, many of whom remain Zuma allies. 

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