Almost three years after the charges were reinstated, the KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg) this week approved 17 May as the start date for the corruption trial of former President Jacob Zuma and French arms company Thales, notes Legalbrief.

Zuma, who is also facing a contempt of court application by the State Capture Commission for defying a Constitutional Court order that he appear before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to answer questions, has been fighting for more than a decade to avoid facing the corruption charges, according to BusinessLIVE.

He has previously said he wants his day in court, but has continued to use a "Stalingrad defence" – deploying every possible legal diversion to stop his prosecution. Zuma and Thales are facing charges of fraud, racketeering, corruption, and money laundering relating to the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal of the 1990s. The charges relate to 783 questionable payments connected with the arms deal that led to the jailing of Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik. Prosecutor Billy Downer told the High Court that the trial was expected to take some time, as there were 234 witnesses, of which 217 were available, and asked that two court terms be set down for the matter.

The state asked for 17 May until 20 June for the start of the trial. After that, further dates will be set. Downer also said the Covid-19 pandemic, which had contributed to some of the delays in the matter going to trial, was still a consideration, especially considering that the representative from Thales and some witnesses would have to travel from overseas. SA could enter a third wave of the virus, which could, once again, result in stricter regulations.

"We don’t know what will happen in the future," Downer said, adding that they would deal with this as it happens.

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