Ousted South African President Jacob Zuma faces court on Friday

Ousted South African President Jacob Zuma faces court on Friday

Ousted President Jacob Zuma appears before the Durban High Court today to face 16 counts of corruption, fraud and racketeering,

Zuma court

Photo: Reuters/Nic Bothma

Ousted President Jacob Zuma appears before the Durban High Court today to face 16 counts of corruption, fraud and racketeering, stemming from a multi-billion-dollar arms deal in 1999. Zuma escaped the same charges in 2009, when the prosecution dropped the case.

The case has fractured the African National Congress (ANC), Zuma’s party. Many from the former president’s Zulu tribe and Kwa-Zulu Natal province staunchly support the ex-president, while others back his replacement, current President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The scandal is indicative of South Africa’s political corruption, which many blame for the country’s socioeconomic inequality. While the ANC has held power since the end of Apartheid, it must tread carefully with Zuma’s trial; its popularity is waning ahead of next year’s general elections.

Ramaphosa is tasked with gracefully distancing the ANC from Zuma, which could become more difficult if the latter is acquitted. In that scenario, the former president could return to politics, further dividing the ANC. A conviction could help solidify Ramaphosa’s government, but could also lead the Zuma-supporting ANC establishment to break away and form an opposition party before 2019’s elections.

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