The corruption trial of South Africa’s ex-president Jacob Zuma, initially set to begin in May, has been postponed for a third time over pre-trial “issues”, the prosecutor said Tuesday.
Zuma, 78, is accused of taking four million rands ($236,000) in bribes to facilitate a $3.4 billion arms deal with French arms company Thales in 1999 when he was deputy president.
The former leader and Thales were scheduled to appear in court on May 6 to answer the allegations.
But the case was pushed back to June because of the coronavirus pandemic and then to September 8 over document delays.
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South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Tuesday announced that the case had again been postponed to December 8 to resolve “pre-trial management issues”.
Sticking points include Thales applications for review and for further particulars from the state, according to the NPA statement.
The prosecution also said it was seeking “further clarity on the resumption of international travel”, as this affects witnesses and Thales representatives from abroad.
South Africa’s borders have been shut since the country went into lockdown on March 27 to tackle the coronavirus.
The former leader faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to the 1990s purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment.
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Zuma was forced to step down in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress after a nine-year reign marked by dwindling popularity and alleged state corruption.
On Sunday, the Jacob Zuma Foundation expressed “disappointment with the NPA’s state of unreadiness” for the “long-awaited trial”.
“The NPA together with the media accused President Zuma of applying delaying tactics,” the foundation said in a statement.
“Yet, it is the NPA that is not ready to proceed when President Zuma calls upon it to present its case against him.”
Thales was not immediately available for comment on the latest delay.