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Zuma to face trial after dropping appeal against prosecution

South Africa’s embattled ex-president Jacob Zuma has abandoned attempts to halt a looming corruption trial on charges related to a 1990s arms deal, his office said Wednesday.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma
Former South African President Jacob Zuma

A statement released by his foundation said the Constitutional Court had on Tuesday accepted “his withdrawal of the application for leave to appeal” against prosecution.

“This indeed paves the way for him to prepare for the trial and demonstrate that he has never benefited from any arms deal corruption or tried to evade the trial,” it said.

“He hopes that his innocence will indeed be demonstrated for all to see.”

Zuma is alleged to have taken bribes of four million rand ($220,000) related to a $3.4 billion arms deal with French aerospace and defence giant Thales in 1999 when he was deputy president.

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The Supreme Court last month dismissed his application for a permanent stay of prosecution against him.

He then approached the Constitutional Court in another appeal bid.

Zuma is scheduled to appear in court to answer the corruption charges on May 6. But it is unclear if the hearing will proceed as the country is under a coronavirus lockdown.

In all, he faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment.

“I hope that our citizens will finally get some certainty and closure as to the real beneficiaries of the arms deal if any corruption in that regard did occur,” Zuma is quoted as saying in the statement.

In February, the 78-year-old Zuma was slapped with an arrest warrant after he failed to appear in a high court for pre-trial hearing while he was undergoing medical treatment in Cuba.

Zuma was forced to step down in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) after a nine-year reign marked by corruption allegations and dwindling popularity. AFP