Former South African president Jacob Zuma appeared in court yesterday to face corruption charges relating to a $2.5 billion arms deal, later telling a crowd he would be proven innocent in the long running case that resurfaced after his fall from power.
Zuma’s transition from “Mr. President” to “Accused Number One” in less than two months is a significant setback for the 75-year-old, whose nine years in office were marked by economic stagnation and credit downgrades.
He faces 16 charges including fraud, racketeering and money laundering.
In a procedural appearance that lasted less than 15 minutes, state prosecutors and Zuma’s lawyers asked the Durban High Court to adjourn the case until June 8 so both sides could prepare submissions. Judge Themba Sishi approved the request.
A potential trial would take several more months to prepare.
Zuma later told thousands of supporters outside court in Durban that his opponents were telling lies and the judiciary and politicians believed that he did not have rights.
“The truth will come out. What have I done?” Zuma told the cheering crowd, speaking in Zulu in his home Kwa-Zulu Natal province.
“I am innocent until proven guilty.”
Zuma denies any wrongdoing and is challenging the decision to prosecute the case, a dramatic development on a continent where political leaders are rarely held to account for their actions before the law.
The speed with which prosecutors have booked his day in court is a sign of the loss of control Zuma has suffered since his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, became head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in December.