DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) – South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma is due to appear in the Durban High Court on Friday to face charges of corruption in a years-old arms deal, as a scandal from the 1990s comes back to haunt him within weeks of his fall from power.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) last month said it would seek to prosecute Zuma on 16 charges, including fraud, racketeering, corruption and money laundering.
The case is a dramatic development on a continent where leaders rarely face their accusers in court.
Zuma, who denies any wrongdoing, is mounting a legal challenge against the decision to prosecute him over his role in the $2.5 billion arms deal.
Thousands of Zuma supporters were expected to march to the court in solidarity with a leader they say is the victim of a politically-motivated witchhunt.
Zuma, who was forced to resign by his ruling African National Congress last month, was at the center of a 1990s agreement to buy European military kit that has cast a shadow over politics in South Africa for years.
Zuma was deputy president at the time of the deal. Schabir Shaikh, his former financial adviser, was found guilty and jailed in 2005 for trying to solicit bribes for Zuma from a French arms company.
Charges against Zuma relating to the arms deal were filed but then set aside by the NPA shortly before he successfully ran for president in 2009. The charges were re-instated in 2016.
Since his election nine years ago, his opponents have fought a lengthy legal battle to have the charges reinstated. Zuma countered with his own legal challenges.
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; additional reporting by Joe Brock, Alexander Winning and Ed Cropley; Writing by Joe Brock, Editing by William Maclean)