New Postponement Threatens Corruption Trial Against Former South African President Jacob Zuma

The corruption trial against South African ex-president Jacob Zuma risks being delayed again. Judge Piet Koen announced on Monday that he is withdrawing, which means the trial may have to start again.

The now 80-year-old Zuma has been on trial since May 2021 for the bribe he allegedly accepted from the French defence company Thales over 20 years ago.

“Good justice, the constitution and my conscience dictate that I withdraw,” Koen said during a session from Pietermaritzburg, broadcast live on TV. Zuma did not attend the hearing.

Zuma must answer for fraud, corruption and extortion, among other things. However, in recent years, the former president has done everything he can to delay the process, and once the process has started, various delaying manoeuvres have been launched.

For example, he has been trying for a long time to challenge Attorney General Billy Downer for being partial. Judge Koen rejected that question from Zuma’s team. The judge now fears Zuma will use that decision to question his partiality. A constitutional specialist from the University of Cape Town explains that a new judge must take Koens’ place.

So the trial is not about the rampant corruption during Zuma’s presidency from 2009 to 2018. Instead, a report published last year shed light on Zuma and his entourage’s widespread looting of the state’s treasury.

In the summer of 2021, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court for refusing to appear before a committee of inquiry into the practices. That detention led to unprecedented violence and looting in the country. After two months, he was released on parole for medical reasons.

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