Former president Jacob Zuma is expected back in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday morning, 26 May 2021, for his corruption trial, but several matters pertaining to it raise questions on its future and whether or not it will go ahead.

The arms deal trial got underway for its first day last week, however it had to be postponed to allow Zuma’s legal team time to submit a plea for the removal of state prosecutor, Billy Downer.

Now, when the matter resumes, Zuma is expected to officially plead not guilty. He faces 16 charges of fraud, corruption, racketeering, and money-laundering related to the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal in the late 1990s.

The former president is alleged to have received 783 suspicious payments to the tune of R1.2 million from French arms manufacturer Thales, through his disgraced former financial advisor Shabir Shaik.

The payments are alleged to be bribes, in exchange for protecting Thales from an investigation into how it scored the contract. Zuma has denied the allegations and claims they are politically motivated.

Jacob Zuma wants acquittal in arms deal case

Should Judge Piet Koen, who’s presiding over the trial, accept Jacob Zuma’s plea for Downer’s recusal, it has been reported that he’ll ask that the court acquit him of the arms deal charges.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has already secured 217 witnesses who will testify – the first of them scheduled on the stand is current Public Works Minister Patricia De Lille. She was the whistleblower in the matter and had called on Parliament to investigate.

It would later emerge that former parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete had also been told about the allegations by an anonymous whistleblower, but she admitted to the State Capture Commission that she ignored the claims.

Zuma’s life, post-presidency, has been characterised by endless court appearances and legal battles – including in his personal life. The former president could soon find himself in jail after he defied an order by the Constitutional Court, compelling him to appear before the State Capture Commission. The commission has since asked the apex court to impose a two year jail term on Zuma. The former president has long maintained his willingness to subject himself to the courts, as far as the arms deal matter is concerned, however his recent actions have been deemed by some, as delaying tactics.

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Presh JM Reporter

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