Zuma corruption case postponed until end November

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Former South African president Jacob Zuma addresses supporters outside the KwaZulu-Natal High Court of Pietermaritzburg on July 27, 2018 following his hearing over 16 corruption charges. He is charged with 16 counts that include fraud‚ corruption and racketeering. These charges relate to 783 payments which he allegedly received as a bribe to protect French arms company‚ Thales from an investigation into the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal. The alleged bribe was facilitated by Zuma’s former financial adviser‚ Schabir Shaik. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Phill MAGAKOE

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 trial 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 involving French arms company Thales.

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 ouster.

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 his 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 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 meanwhile 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.