Jacob Zuma compared this Friday, April 6 in front of a Durban court to answer charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering.
This is a first appearance in an old arms sales business dating back to the 1990s.
The former South African president is accused of receiving bribes from Thomson CSF, the former name of Thales, in a deal worth nearly $4billion euros concluded in 1999.
At the time, Jacob Zuma is vice president of the country. He is accused of having collected a total of 50million euros from the French group. In exchange, he pledged to lobby in his favor.
“In total, South Africa has decided to spend more than $10billion to renew its weapons. Weapons that the country did not really need and that are barely used today. But the main reason is that more than $300million of bribes were paid during these contracts.” Andrew Feinstein, member of the ANC in 1999 and member of a parliamentary committee investigating this case
The money is traded through an intermediary, Shabir Sheik, the financial advisor to Jacob Zuma. The evidence is numerous and solid, including a coded fax sent by Alain Têtard, the local director of Thales, confirming that the money will be deposited in such account, on such date in exchange for services rendered by Jacob Zuma.
In 2005, the two men are charged with corruption, but only Shabir Sheik will be sentenced to 15 years in prison. The charges against Jacob Zuma have been dropped several times, particularly on the eve of his election to the presidency due to a procedural violation.
For 10 years, the opposition is fighting for the reopening of the file. Two years ago, he won the case with the highest authority in the country. And the prosecutor, who has yet dragged his feet has no choice but to reinstate these charges: 16 in total, for corruption, fraud and racketeering.
Today Jacob Zuma is a big risk. He is no longer the President of the Republic and no longer enjoys such important support. And above all, according to those who follow the file, the evidence is overwhelming.
Nearly 10 years after his last appearance, new reports could indeed put in trouble the former South African president and indirectly the company Thalès. Also called to appear before the South African justice in the role of accused, the French company refuses to comment “a case in progress”, while Jacob Zuma has always claimed his innocence.
The hearing that opens on Friday in Durban should be of pure form, for a trial that may be long, according to jurists.
Finally, one of the other issues at the opening of this lawsuit is the legal costs of Jacob Zuma. The opposition demands that he refund all the expenses paid by the State since 2009, legal fees estimated at more than one million euros.
“I have come to support one of the best presidents that South Africa has had. He did a lot of things for South African blacks. More than any other president.” Demonstration in support of Jacob Zuma in Durban.