Former President Jacob Zuma with his attorney, Dan Mantsha, appears in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, his third appearance on charges of fraud and corruption. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN/POOL
Former President Jacob Zuma with his attorney, Dan Mantsha, appears in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, his third appearance on charges of fraud and corruption. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN/POOL

Former president Jacob Zuma arrived at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday for his third appearance on corruption charges relating to the arms deal in the late 1990s.

Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a deal to buy European military hardware.

His appearance on Friday comes almost a decade to the day after his first appearance — with his then co-accused Pierre Moynot‚ representing the French-based arms company Thales — in the same court on 18 charges of corruption‚ money laundering‚ fraud and tax evasion.

Dressed in a dark suit and red tie, the former president was seen in court on Friday shaking hands with his supporters before sitting down.

Prosecutors and Zuma’s lawyers are expected to argue over a start date for the trial.

Vigil

Dozens of his supporters held an overnight vigil in the city and hundreds marched to court through the streets of Pietermaritzburg, chanting support for Zuma.

Some said 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.

They carried placards emblazoned with the words: "100% behind H.E. Zuma" and "Solid ANC Leader".

ANC MK vet Carl Niehaus‚ who was outside court on Friday morning‚ said he recalled being at the Pietermaritzburg for Zuma’s appearance in 2008.

"I am one of those who came here to support Msholozi‚ because I believe he has been treated unfairly. For him to come back here again and face these charges and humiliation is unfair‚" said Niehaus.

A month after his August 2008 appearance‚ former high court judge Chris Nicholson threw the case out of court‚ saying Zuma was entitled to make representation to the National Director of Public Prosecutions before they charged him.

He ruled: "The obligation to hear representations forms part of the audi alteram partem principle. What is required is that a person who may be adversely affected by a decision be given an opportunity to make representations with a view to procuring a favourable result. The affected person should usually be informed of the gist or the substance of the case‚ which he is to answer."

The speed with which prosecutors have moved against Zuma this year is a sign of his waning influence since he was replaced as president by Cyril Ramaphosa 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.

Reuters and staff writer