A judge has postponed the corruption trial of former South African President Jacob Zuma and French defense company Thales to May 26.
Zuma’s trial in the Pietermaritzburg High Court had been scheduled to begin on May 17 but was further delayed after his newly appointed defense team raised concerns over the lead state prosecutor.
Zuma’s defense lawyers are applying for the prosecutor to step down on undisclosed grounds. The judge delayed the trial to grant their request for preparations.
Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille said that the week’s delay was bearable.
“We have all been waiting for this day so so South Africans can hear the truth and former president Jacob Zuma can put his side of the case,” De Lille said.
Zuma’s new lawyer, Thabani Masuku, told the court, “Zuma is ready to proceed with trial, he has always been ready to proceed with trial.”
Masuku also said that Zuma would not plead guilty when the trial begins next week.
Zuma, who was president from 2009 to 2018, faces charges of fraud, graft, and racketeering related to a $2.5 billion arms deal in which he purchased fighter jets, patrol boats, and military gear in 1999 from five European firms.
Zuma said that the arms deal was politically motivated.
Zuma has also been accused of annually accepting over $35,000 as bribes from Thales, one of the firms, from 1999 as part of an agreement for protecting the company from an investigation into the deal.
Thales has denied any wrongdoing.
Zuma had previously called the trial “a political witch hunt.”
The court had previously said that the trial is expected to last from May to June.
The case is part of current President Cyril Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption crackdown on officials.
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