The trial of former South African president Jacob Zuma is set to continue on Monday.
Zuma, who was jailed in July, faces 16 charges — including fraud, graft and racketeering — related to his time as the country’s deputy president. The case focuses on a 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military gear from five European arms firms.
He is also accused of pocketing four million rand (€ 234,000, $277,000) in bribes from one of the firms, French defense giant Thales, which has been charged with corruption and money laundering.
Zuma’s trial started in May following numerous postponements and delays by his legal team to have the charges dropped.
The 79-year-old Zuma appeared in person for the opening and said he was innocent. Thales also denied any wrongdoing, and the next hearing was set for July 19.
Zuma’s arrest prompts deadly riots
The former president was found guilty on 29 June of contempt of court after refusing to appear before graft investigators. He was ordered to serve 15 months in jail and jailed a week later.
However, things took a deadly turn in the country after his incarceration.
Protests sparked in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal and snowballed into a week of looting and arson that spread to the economic hub Johannesburg. So far over 200 people have died.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday said security agencies had identified a number of people suspected of instigating the violence. Ramaphosa believes the unrest was planned.
“Using the pretext of a political grievance, those behind these acts have sought to provoke a popular insurrection,” Ramaphosa said.
Analysts warn that Monday’s hearing could reignite tensions that had eased late last week.
Monday’s hearing will focus on Zuma attorneys’ push to recuse chief prosecutor Billy Downer for allegedly leaking information to the media.
The prosecutors “will argue vigorously for the application to be dismissed,” National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga told the AFP news agency.
Mhaga said the trial will be heard virtually to “avoid disruption.”
Pope appeals for peace in South Africa
Pope Francis on Sunday spoke against the violence which took place in South Africa.
During his address, the Pope said South Africans have already been suffering economic and health difficulties caused by the pandemic. He made an appeal for peace so that aid can reach those in need.
“May the desire that has guided the people of South Africa to be reborn in harmony among all its children not be forgotten,” Francis said.