Ex-South African Leader Zuma Pleads Not Guilty in Graft Case

Former South African President Jacob Zuma appeared in court on Wednesday to face corruption, money laundering and racketeering charges, and pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Zuma’s lawyer Dali Mpofu spent part of the first day of the trial arguing that state prosecutor Billy Downer should be replaced on the grounds that he wasn’t independent and impartial because he’d supported an opposition party’s bid to ensure his client faced charges. The state will file its response before the hearing resumes in the High Court in the eastern town of Pietermaritzburg on July 19.

Zuma, 79, was fired as deputy president in 2005 after his financial adviser was found guilty of soliciting bribes for him from arms dealers in the 1990s. Prosecutors then filed mirror charges against Zuma and French company Thales SA but dropped the case shortly before he became president in 2009. The Supreme Court of Appeal reinstated the charges in 2017. Thales also pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

Zuma led South Africa for almost nine scandal-marred years before the ruling party forced him to step down in 2018 to stem a loss of electoral support.

The ex-president has been separately prosecuted for defying a court order to testify before a judicial panel that’s investigating graft. A Constitutional Court ruling is pending on whether he should be jailed.

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