JOHANNESBURG, South Africa— Former South African President Jacob Zuma trial is set to begin in May, more than 16 years after he was first implicated in graft accusations.
Zuma, who was deputy president from 1999 and later became president from 2009-2018 stands accused of receiving 500,000 rands ($34,000) annual bribe from French arms manufacturer Thales, although he denies the charges.
The ex-president is also being tried on 16 charges of racketeering, fraud, corruption, and money laundering in connection with the Firm.
Thales, also known as Thompson-CFS in 1999 has consistently said it has no knowledge of any crimes having been committed by any of its employees in relation to awarding contracts.
A pre-trial hearing begun on Tuesday after it was postponed in December. State prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer told the court that all pre-trial matters had been concluded and that the state and the Defense team are ready to begin the trial.
Zuma has defied several court orders to appear before the commission, saying candidly that he would go to jail before consenting to testify before it.
The Pietermaritzburg High Court asked all accused to avail themselves on May 17, provided Covid-19 restrictions allow representatives of the French company to fly to the country.
Zuma was forced to step down in 2018 by his party, the African National Congress (ANC) party as a result of arising corruption accusations against him and his allies.
The new regime under President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to root out corruption in the government.