Johannesburg, South Africa, Jul 27 – South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma appeared in court Friday over a $2.5-billion (2.15-billion-euro) corruption case linked to a 1990s arms deal, but the judge adjourned the case until the end of November.
Zuma, who was forced to resign in February, has been charged with 16 counts of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to an arms deal before he took office.
Judge Mjabuliseni Madondo of the Pietermaritzburg High Court said the defence should have adequate time to prepare an application for a permanent stay of the proceedings and set the next hearing for November 30.
Zuma, 76, is one of the rare former African leaders facing trial after his ousting.
The ruling ANC party stalwart has made two earlier appearances in the court, located in his homeland in KwaZulu-Natal province where he commands huge support, but this was his first court hearing with a new legal team.
“We will deal with this matter. Give us an opportunity to have a proper case,” his new lawyer Michael Hellens said.
Zuma is accused of taking bribes from French arms company Thales during his time as a provincial economy minister and later as deputy ANC president.
He allegedly pocketed around four million rand ($340,000, 280,000 euros) from 783 payments handled by Schabir Shaik, a businessman who acted as his financial adviser.
On Friday, the French firm said it had no knowledge of any transgressions by any of its employees.
The company said it believed it “cannot obtain a fair trial” in South Africa owing to the lengthy judicial process which began in 2006 and other factors.
“Thales intends to consider all legal options available to it under South African law in order to present its defence,” it said.
Judge Madondo delivered a stern reminder to Zuma, saying he should not think of shunning future court proceedings.
“I’m sure you know what will follow if you don’t attend court,” he said.
A separate inquiry into the Zuma government’s alleged corrupt dealings with the Gupta business family will begin on August 20, the inquiry head announced Friday.
Zuma’s successor as president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has vowed to crack down on government corruption, which he has admitted was a serious problem.