JOHANNESBURG (AP) – The corruption trial of former South African President Jacob Zuma resumed on Monday, more than a week after his incarceration for contempt of court in a separate case that sparked riots in parts of the country.
Zuma is accused of receiving bribes from French arms manufacturer Thales in connection with the country’s controversial 1999 arms purchase contracts. The trial is proceeding virtually, but Zuma’s lawyers may seek to postpone the proceedings so that he can physically appear in court.
The imprisonment of the former president earlier this month sparked protests that escalated into widespread unrest in KwaZulu-Natal, the home province of Zuma, and Gauteng, the province which includes Johannesburg, the largest city in ‘South Africa. Zuma supporters forced the closure of strategic highways, and rioters ransacked malls and malls in poor areas. In KwaZulu-Natal, warehouses and factories were looted and then set on fire by arsonists.
At least 212 people have died in the riots, many of them crushed in chaotic rampages in stores. More than 2,500 people have been arrested for theft and vandalism. Order was restored after the deployment of 2,500 army troops to assist the police.
At the time he allegedly received the bribes through his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, Zuma was a senior official of the ruling African National Congress and a provincial minister of KwaZulu-Natal.
Shaik was convicted of related charges in 2005, sentenced to prison and later released on medical parole.
Zuma’s lawyers are expected to press his request for the lead prosecutor in the case, Billy Downer, to recuse himself from the state’s legal team. Zuma’s lawyers have argued that Downer was biased against Zuma.
The corruption case is different from Zuma’s contempt of court conviction. Zuma had defied court orders to testify at a state inquiry into corruption allegations during his 2009-2018 presidency. The judicial inquiry heard damning testimonies of widespread corruption under Zuma’s administration.
The Constitutional Court examines his request for annulment of his 15-month sentence for contempt of court. Zuma’s lawyers have argued that the country’s supreme court made errors in his conviction and conviction.
Assessing the damage done to South Africa’s economy by the unrest, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday that the country had already started to recover from the violence.
“But we’re not just rebuilding our country after last week’s destruction; we are rebuilding after the devastation of decades of dispossession and exploitation, ”Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly letter to the nation.
“We must fundamentally transform our economy and our society, stepping up our efforts to create jobs, lift millions of people out of poverty and ensure that the country’s wealth is shared among all its inhabitants,” he said. declared. “The events of the past week are a stark reminder of just how deep the problems are and how far we still have to go. These events should prompt us to act with greater determination and speed. “
Ramaphosa also reiterated that the violence was not spontaneous but was allegedly planned.
“Those who ignited the powder keg of these troubles hoped to mobilize our people by exploiting their conditions of misery. They were counting on citizens who would fall into the trap of crude propaganda designed to turn them not only against the state, but against each other, ”said the South African leader. “What they weren’t counting on was the lasting ability of South Africans to unite in the face of a common threat.”