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Former President Jacob Zuma to ask South African court to drop 16 charges against him

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Former President Jacob Zuma to ask South African court to drop 16 charges against him

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Photo: Phill Magakoe/Pool via Reuters

The corruption trial of former President of South Africa Jacob Zuma will resume today at Pietermaritzburg High Court, where Zuma will ask the court to drop 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and corruption relating to a $2.5 billion European arms deal he brokered in 1999.

The former head of South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) party, Zuma was arrested in June for contempt of court after failing to appear before a judicial commission investigating corruption accusations against him. His jailing sparked violent riots throughout the country, leading to the sacking of government officials including former Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize who defended Zuma and are implicated in his corruption scandal.

Expect the court to deny Zuma’s plea and to continue his trial, which will likely end in conviction. As the trial proceeds, it will provide an important bellwether for South African democracy. Though current President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken steps to distance the ANC from the corruption of Zuma’s tenure, the ANC has resisted systemic change. Zuma’s conviction would give significant political capital to Ramaphosa to expand his control over the ANC, root out opponents of his anti-corruption campaign, and maintain long-term control over South Africa’s political institutions.

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