By Linda Bordoni
South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma, appeared in court on Friday to face corruption charges relating to a 2.5 billion US dollars arms deal.
After the hearing he addressed a crowd of his supporters gathered in front of the Durban High court and reaffirmed his innocence in the long-running case that resurfaced after his fall from on Ash Wednesday.
South African Bishops welcome the prosecution
Welcoming the news that Jacob Zuma was going to face prosecution, Archbishop William Slattery, spokesperson for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference told the Catholic publication “America” it is “very hopeful that the wheels of justice are still turning in South Africa”.
“The fact, he continued, that the former state president will now have his day in court to answer before the nation for his decisions while in power will certainly send a well-needed clanging alarm call to many departments and offices of political administration”.
16 charges, 783 instances of wrongdoing
During the 15-minute hearing, prosecutors said the 75-year-old Zuma faces 16 charges including fraud, racketeering and money laundering that relate to 783 instances of alleged wrongdoing in the 2 and a half billion dollar arms deal arranged when he was deputy president.
Supporters of the former president who resigned amid overwhelming pressure from his own, ruling ANC party, flocked in the thousands to Durban for the hearing and cheered him as he left court.
Much needed accountability
But most South Africans see the case as bringing much-needed accountability to the country’s politicians, and a more than welcome development after nine years of Zuma administrations marked by economic stagnation and widespread corruption.
At the end of the hearing a request to adjourn the case until 8 June so both the prosecutors and the defense can prepare submissions was approved.