Monday, 29 May, 2023

Zuma's arms graft trial adjourned until August

JOHANNESBURG: A South African court on Monday ordered a four-month postponement in the much-delayed trial of former president Jacob Zuma, who faces charges of corruption in an arms scandal dating to the late 1990s, reports AFP.

The High Court in the eastern city of Pietermaritzburg said it was postponing the case after Zuma's attorneys submitted a fresh bid for prosecutor Billy Downer to be recused.

“This matter is adjourned to 15 August, 2023 for the hearing of Mr Zuma's second application for the removal of Mr Downer... as state prosecutor in the criminal trial,” Judge Nkosinathi Chili said.

A previous attempt to remove Downer was dismissed by Chili's predecessor, Judge Piet Koen, but he then stepped down in January after presiding over the case for several years.

Zuma's trial got underway in May 2021 only to run into a string of legal delays.

Wim Trengove, a lawyer representing the state, once referred to the countless postponements as Stalingrad Season 27 -- a reference to the perceived strategy of entrenched delay by the defence.

The 81-year-old faces 16 counts of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to a contract to purchase fighter jets, patrol boats and equipment from five European arms firms while he was vice president.

He served as president from 2009 to 2018 before being forced out over allegations of corruption in the state sector.

He is also trying to remove Downer through a private prosecution process.