Graft trial resumes for South Africa’s jailed ex-president



The corruption trial of former South African President Jacob Zuma has resumed Monday, a criminal case separate from his imprisonment for contempt of court which set off a week of rioting in parts of the country.

Order has been restored by the deployment of 2,500 army troops to assist police.

Zuma’s imprisonment earlier this month triggered protests that escalated into widespread unrest in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s home province, and Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province that includes Johannesburg, the country’s largest city. Zuma’s supporters forced the closure of strategic highways and rioters ransacked malls and shopping centers in poor areas. In KwaZulu-Natal warehouses and factories were looted and then burned by arsonists.

At least 212 people died in the rioting, many crushed in the chaotic rampages in shops. More than 2,500 people have been arrested for theft and vandalism.

The resumption of Zuma’s corruption trial is taking place virtually, but his lawyers may seek to postpone it so that he may appear physically at the court. Zuma is accused of allegedly receiving bribes from the French arms manufacturer Thales related to the country’s controversial 1999 arms procurement contracts.

Zuma was a high-ranking official in the ruling African National Congress party and a provincial minister in KwaZulu-Natal at the time he is alleged to have received the bribes through his former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik.

Shaik was convicted on related charges in 2005, sentenced to prison, and was later released on medical parole.

Zuma’s lawyers are expected to press his application 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 is biased against Zuma.

The corruption case is different from Zuma’s contempt of court conviction. Zuma had defied court orders to testify before a state inquest into allegations of corruption during his presidency from 2009 to 2018. The judicial inquest has heard damning testimony of widespread corruption during Zuma’s administration.

Zuma is awaiting judgment from the Constitutional Court on his application that his 15-month contempt of court sentence be rescinded. His lawyers have argued that the nation’s apex court made some errors when convicting and sentencing him.

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