JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma said on Friday his lawyers had faith they would get the case against him dropped after making his third appearance in court on corruption charges relating to a $2.5 billion arms deal.
Zuma, who wore a dark suit and red tie, faces 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a deal to buy European military hardware to upgrade South Africa’s armed forces after the end of apartheid in 1994.
The case in Pietermaritzburg, the capital and second-largest city in KwaZulu-Natal province, is a rare example of an African leader being held to account for his actions. Zuma, who was ousted by the ruling party, denies any wrongdoing.
Judge Mjabuliseni Madondo adjourned the case to Nov. 30, giving time to Zuma’s new legal team to file an application to throw out the case against Zuma.
“A permanent stay is a very realistic option and has great prospect of success,” said Zuma’s lawyer Mike Hellens, who is part of a legal team that replaced a previous one led by the former president’s long-time lawyer Michael Hulley.
Zuma later addressed hundreds of his supporters in the city, saying the case against him has been pending for a long time.
“Justice delayed, is justice denied,” he told the crowd, saying he now had a top-notch new legal team.
“They, the lawyers, have faith that they will win this case so that it ends.”
The former president led the crowd in song, including a rendition of “Umshini wami”, made popular by the ANC’s armed wing during South Africa’s decades-long struggle against apartheid and which translates as “Bring my machine gun”.
His supporters carried placards emblazoned with the words: “Zuma is us. We are him” and “Solid ANC Leader”.
Zuma, whose nine years in power were marked by economic stagnation and credit rating downgrades, has previously said he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.
The charges against Zuma were originally filed a decade ago but then set aside by the National Prosecuting Authority shortly before he successfully ran for president in 2009.
After his election, his opponents fought a lengthy legal battle to have the charges reinstated, finally succeeding in 2016. Zuma countered with his own legal challenges.
The speed with which prosecutors have moved against Zuma is a sign of his waning influence since he was replaced as head of state by Cyril Ramaphosa, his former deputy, in February.
Ramaphosa has made the fight against corruption a priority as he seeks to woo foreign investment and revamp an ailing economy.
Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Stephen Powell