Former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was ousted by his own party in February, arrived at the Durban High Court on Friday for his second appearance on corruption charges relating to a $2.5 billion arms deal in the late 1990s.
Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to the deal to buy European military hardware to upgrade South Africa’s armed forces after the end of apartheid in 1994.
State prosecutors and Zuma’s lawyers are expected to argue over a start date for the trial, a rare example of an African leader being held to account for his actions.
The national prosecutor this week turned down a request by the 76-year-old to delay Friday’s hearing pending the outcome of a separate legal challenge over the state paying his legal fees.
The speed with which prosecutors have moved against Zuma is a sign of his waning influence since he was replaced as head of state by Cyril Ramaphosa, his former deputy, four months ago.
Ramaphosa has made the fight against corruption a top priority as he seeks to woo foreign investment and revamp an ailing economy.
Zuma’s supporters say the former president, whose nine years in power were marked by economic stagnation and credit rating downgrades, is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.