I’m in­no­cent, Zuma says af­ter court ap­pear­ance

Sunday News - - WORLD -

DURBAN For­mer South African pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has told cheer­ing sup­port­ers he is not guilty of cor­rup­tion af­ter ap­pear­ing in KwaZulu-Na­tal High Court yes­ter­day, two months af­ter his party, the African Na­tional Congress, forced him from of­fice.

In a sign that the cor­rup­tion case against Zuma could go on for years, prose­cu­tor Billy Downer said Zuma’s le­gal team planned to chal­lenge the le­git­i­macy of the pros­e­cu­tion, which in­volves the re­in­state­ment of charges of fraud, rack­e­teer­ing and money laun­der­ing that had been dropped years ago, and to seek a per­ma­nent stay.

Downer said au­thor­i­ties were ready to pro­ceed with a trial in Novem­ber, but the chal­lenge and re­quest for a stay of pros­e­cu­tion could each take months, es­pe­cially if ap­peals are pur­sued. The case at the Durban court- house was ad­journed un­til June 8 on the agree­ment of both par­ties, to en­able Zuma’s de­fence team to pre­pare their doc­u­ments for the chal­lenge.

Zuma is charged with 16 counts of cor­rup­tion, fraud, money laun­der­ing and rack­e­teer­ing in re­la­tion to 783 pay­ments he al­legedly re­ceived as part of a South African arms deal in 1999, when he was deputy pres­i­dent. Also fac­ing pros­e­cu­tion is Thales, for­merly known as Thint, a French arms com­pany ac­cused of brib­ing Zuma.

Since be­ing ousted by the ANC and then re­placed by his for­mer deputy Cyril Ramaphosa in Fe­bru­ary, Zuma has claimed the pros­e­cu­tion amounts to an at­tack by his po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies.

Zuma said noth­ing dur­ing his court ap­pear­ance but spoke to sup­port­ers in Zulu on a stage out­side the court­house, say­ing the charges were po­lit­i­cal and that he was be­ing per­se­cuted be­cause he had ex­posed the lack of free­dom in South Africa.

‘‘The truth will come out. What have I done? I am in­no­cent un­til proven guilty,’’ he said. ‘‘I can’t be­lieve all the lies about me.’’

He crit­i­cised the ANC, say­ing that when he asked for an­swers about what had been done to him, no-one was will­ing to talk to him. ‘‘Why am I be­ing treated as if I’m guilty?’’ he said.

‘‘They are fight­ing me be­cause I said there is no free­dom. That’s why they take me to court. They want to shut my mouth,’’ he said, call­ing for rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and the re­turn of land from white peo­ple to black South Africans. LA Times

PHOTO: AP

Ja­cob Zuma sits in the dock at the High Court in Durban to face charges of fraud, cor­rup­tion and rack­e­teer­ing.

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