Former South African president Jacob Zuma arrived in a Durban High Court on Friday morning where he was to face corruption charges related to a years-old $2.5 billion arms deal.
The case was however postponed to June 8. Zuma plans to legally challenge a decision to prosecute him on 16 charges, including fraud, racketeering, corruption and money laundering, that stem from the deal.
The case, which is to be heard in Zuma’s home province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, is a dramatic development on a continent where leaders rarely face their accusers in court.
Zuma was deputy president at the time of the 1990s arms deal, which has cast a shadow over politics in South Africa for years. 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 were filed against Zuma but then dropped by national prosecutors shortly before he successfully ran for president in 2009.
Since his election nine years ago, his opponents have fought a lengthy legal battle to have the charges reinstated. The main opposition Democratic Alliance party sought a reopening of the corruption inquiry in 2014 after the release of secret evidence, known as the Zuma “spy tapes”, cited in the 2009 decision to drop the case.
Zuma countered with his own legal challenges, but prosecutors re-filed the charges after he was forced from power by his own party in February.