After two decades of stop-start litigation about alleged kickbacks linked to the multibillion-rand arms deal of the 1990s, former president Jacob Zuma finally stood before a judge and entered his plea.

“Not guilty,” he pronounced at the Pietermaritzburg high court after state prosecutor Billy Downer read out charges to him and his co-accused, French arms company Thales. The day’s events represented a watershed because once charges are read and an accused pleads, the state cannot withdraw its case...

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