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South Africa's ex-president Zuma pleads not guilty to corruption charges

By Betty Njeru and Reuters | May 26th 2021

Former South African President Jacob Zuma arrives in court to face corruption charges in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. [Reuters]

Former South Africa President Jacob Zuma has pleaded not guilty to corruption charges, during the start of his trial in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

Zuma appeared in court on Wednesday to face 16 charges among them, corruption, money laundering and racketeering, linked to a $2 billion arms deal when he was deputy president, back in the 1990s. He pleaded not guilty to all counts.

SABC News reported heavy police presence outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court, as the former president readied for trial.

Zuma, who also faces a separate inquiry into corruption during his time as president, is accused of accepting 500,000 rand ($34,000) annually from French arms company Thales, in exchange for protecting the company from an investigation into the deal.

"I plead not guilty," he said, staring into space after the prosecutor read out all the charges.

Zuma's defence team led by lawyer Dali Mpofu called for the recusal of state prosecutor Billy Downer, on the grounds that he has "no title to prosecute". The prosecution requested more time to make a response to that call, so it will not be dealt with on Wednesday but rather on July 19, said the presiding judge.

Zuma's son, Duduzane Zuma, told International media that his father had always been ready for the trial.

“He's been innocent from day one. He's been ready for the case from day one. People should not be saying he's been delaying his day in court. He was merely exercising his constitutional rights which he fought for,” Duduzane is quoted saying.

The ex-president has previously described the trial as political.


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