The former South African president faces multiple charges related to an arms deal in 1999 when he was vice president.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma has pleaded guilty to charges of corruption, fraud, defamation and money laundering related to a 1999 arms deal when he was vice president.
Zuma has repeatedly rejected the charges and says he is the victim of a witch hunt with political motives by his opponents.
“I plead not guilty,” he said Wednesday after the prosecutor read the charges in court.
Zuma, who is also facing an independent investigation into corruption during his time as president from 2009 to 2018, is accused of accepting 500,000 rand ($ 34,000) a year from French arms company Thales in exchange for protect the company from an investigation into the $ 2 billion deal. .
Zuma’s defense team is calling for state prosecutor Billy Downer’s recusal on the grounds that he “has no title to prosecute.” The prosecution asked for more time to respond to that call, so it will not be dealt with on Wednesday, but on July 19, the presiding judge said.
“Jacob Zuma argues that the chief prosecutor is not impartial, he is not independent and that would jeopardize the prospects of a fair trial,” said Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, according to Johannesburg.
He added that South Africans were preparing “a very long process, which would probably take months, if not years”.
The National Tax Administration (NPA) initially filed charges against Zuma a decade ago, but set them aside shortly before successfully running for president in 2009. Following appeals and party lobbies of the opposition, the NPA reinstated the charges in March 2018, a month later the ruling party of the African National Congress (ANC) forced him to step down.
Thales was known as Thomson-CSF at the time of the deal. He said he knew of no transgression by his employees in relation to the award of contracts. His court representative also pleaded not guilty to charges of cheating, corruption and money laundering that the company faced.