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Judge Rules Zuma Corruption Trial Can Go Ahead

Former South African President Jacob Zuma, center, is seen in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Oct. 11, 2019.

A court in South Africa on Friday ruled the corruption trial against former President Jacob Zuma will go ahead, despite his efforts to have the case dismissed. Zuma also faces charges of money laundering and fraud related to a government arms deal.

More than a decade after Zuma was first taken to court over the 16 charges involving 783 payments, he is now likely to have his day in court.

In of May this year, Zuma applied for a permanent stay of prosecution, that is, the dismissal of the case. He argued that the case has been tainted by lengthy delays and political interference.

However, Judge Bhekisisa Mnguni Friday delivered a judgment that is likely to be a setback for Zuma and his co-accused, Thales, a French arms company.

"Application for the permanent stay is dismissed with costs,” Mnguni said. “Such costs to include those consequent upon employment of two counsel."

Zuma was first charged in 2007 before those charges were withdrawn in 2009. The Supreme Court of Appeal ruled against the withdrawal in 2017 and the charges were reinstated in 2018.

Zuma's supporters are not in agreement with the judgment. Nkosentsha Shezi, a Zuma supporter, said he believes this is clear persecution for the former president's unwavering support for black economic empowerment.

"We are very disappointed but not surprised at all. We knew this is what was coming,” Shezi said. “And in fact, this judgment also tells us there is much work that needs to be done for us to get into our total emancipation and defend those who fight for true radical economic transformation."

Prior to Friday's judgment, Oct. 15 was set as a holding date for the commencement of the trial; however, legal expert Byron Jackson says it will not be as easy as it looks.

"I'm confident that the former president as well as Thales will want to approach the Supreme Court of Appeal, to appeal the finding of the court today,” Jackson said.

Zuma has 15 days to appeal Friday's ruling. His first appeal would to go the High Court. If the court rules in his favor, a date for that application will be set and that will automatically suspend the start of the trial.

In case the High Court dismisses his appeal application, Zuma has 30 days to challenge the decision by going directly to the Supreme Court of Appeal.