The former president, jailed in contempt of court, faces various corruption charges stemming from a 1999 arms sale.
The long process of corruption of former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was jailed on a separate charge led to days of deadly unrest and looting across the country, it has resumed.
Zuma appeared virtually Monday in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, where he faces 16 charges of fraud, corruption and relay related to the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment from five European arms companies when he was vice president in 1999.
The 79-year-old is accused of bribes from one of the companies, the French defense giant Thales, accused of corruption and money laundering.
The trial began in May, but has faced several postponements and delays as Zuma’s legal team tried to drop the charges.
On Monday, the former president’s legal team requested that the trial be postponed again, arguing that a defendant has the right to appear in person in person in court. Zuma had physically appeared in court during the opening of the trial to proclaim his innocence.
On June 29, the former president was found guilty of contempt of South Africa’s highest court for disobeying a Constitutional Court order to testify before a judicial tribunal conducting an independent corruption investigation during his presidency.
His imprisonment a week later sparked violent protests, looting and widespread fires in his native KwaZulu-Natal province, as well as in Gauteng province, which has left commercial areas looted and at least 200 people dead.
Intense police presence
On Monday, armored vehicles, heavily armed soldiers and police were stationed outside the courthouse, fearing that the resumption of the trial would provoke further violent protests, which had been relaxed over the weekend.
“It was feared or thought that Zuma supporters would use this hearing today as an opportunity to show their support for the former president,” Bernard Smith, of Al Jazeera, reported from Pietermaritzburg.
“That is why there is a very intense police and military presence. A park … where they usually meet has also been sealed. “
However, Smith reported, there was little in the way of the demonstrations when the proceedings began.
“It is not even possible for people to come especially close (to the court). This country is also suffering from a very severe COVID outbreak and is closed, which may have deterred some people, ”he said.
Zuma, a veteran of the fight against white minority government, served as South Africa’s president from 2009 to 2018 before relinquishing pressure from his party, the African National Congress (ANC), amid declining support public anger and public outrage at allegations of corruption.
Once christened the “president of Teflon,” Zuma and his sponsors have repeatedly rejected the examination of his conduct and denied feeding the current riots.
His lawyers are currently seeking to overturn his 15-month prison sentence.