Former South African President Jacob Zuma Appears in Court for Corruption Trial

Former President Jacob Zuma appeared in court in Durban, South Africa, on Friday. He faces charges including corruption and fraud.
Yeshiel Panchia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Just weeks after falling from power, Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s former president, made a brief appearance in court on Friday in a corruption case that emphasized the political upheaval that has recently swept the country.

A judge in the High Court in Durban adjourned the case, which is related to a multibillion-dollar arms deal from the 1990s, until June 8. Mr. Zuma, who made no comment in court, had tried for years to avoid prosecution in the case.

The brevity of his appearance did not detract from the powerful image of Mr. Zuma, a commanding figure just a few months ago, sitting as a defendant in court. Mr. Zuma was stripped of the presidency in February after losing a battle with his rival and eventual successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa.

On Friday, national prosecutors, as well as Mr. Zuma’s lawyers, asked for the postponement to prepare the case.

Starting a battle on another front, Mr. Zuma’s lawyers also said that they planned to challenge the decision of the national prosecutors to charge him in this case — a move that could indefinitely postpone the opening of the trial.

Last month, national prosecutors announced that corruption charges related to the arms deal would be reinstated against Mr. Zuma almost a decade after they were dropped.

After his court appearance, a pugnacious Mr. Zuma addressed thousands of supporters gathered near the courthouse. Flanked by religious leaders on a stage, Mr. Zuma, speaking only in the Zulu language, said he was being charged purely for political reasons.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Norimitsu Onishi