Former South African president Jacob Zuma’s lawyers demanded a permanent stay of prosecution on Monday in his ongoing corruption trial.
The charges against the 77-year-old needed to be dropped due to political interference and an unreasonable delay in prosecution, Zuma’s legal team told the High Court in the Eastern town of Pietermaritzburg.
The court is hearing arguments in a long-running legal saga that dates back to 1999 over alleged kickbacks in a multi-billion-dollar arms deal with a French company, Thales, which Zuma oversaw as vice president.
Zuma is facing charges of fraud, money laundering, corruption and racketeering for a series of alleged bribes paid to him through his former financial adviser, Shabir Shaik, during the arms deal.
Shaik was found guilty of corruption and fraud in 2005 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Zuma – dubbed the “teflon president” because of his ability to weather scandal after scandal – should have been charged at the same time as Shaik or not at all, argued the senior defence counsel, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was prejudiced against Zuma and was thereby “violating” his constitutional rights, according to Sikhakhane.
In 2007, Zuma was charged with 16 counts of racketeering, corruption, money laundering and fraud.
The charges, relating to 783 payments in connection with Thales, were dropped before he assumed the presidency in 2009.
After years of legal challenges, the NPA in early 2018 served a fresh indictment, deciding Zuma must face trial.
Zuma had been forced to resign as president under intense pressure from his African National Congress (ANC) party shortly beforehand.
Proceedings were adjourned on Monday afternoon until Tuesday and are expected to run until Thursday, when the court will have to decide whether Zuma should stand trial.