Ex-president of South Africa Jacob Zuma is expected in court on corruption charges on Tuesday, in what would be the first time he faces trial for graft despite multiple accusations.
Zuma stands accused of taking kickbacks before he became president from a 51-billion-rand (USD 3.4-billion) purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment manufactured by five European firms, including French defence company Thales.
Last year, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party forced him to resign as president after a nine-year reign marred by corruption allegations and diminishing popularity.
The 77-year-old politician was ousted last year after almost a decade in power, after a bitter internal battle within the ruling African National Congress party.
His successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, has pledged repeatedly to crack down on corruption in South Africa, which faces massive economic and social challenges.
The charges against Zuma were originally filed a decade ago but then set aside by the National Prosecuting Authority shortly before he successfully ran for president in 2009.
Zuma is expected to appear alongside representatives of Thales, which is accused of paying the bribes. Both Zuma and Thales deny the charges.
There is also doubt over whether the court will be able to start proceedings straight away.
“I just don’t see how the trial is going to start tomorrow. It takes a whole year to prepare for a trial of this magnitude,” Johannesburg-based lawyer Tyrone Maseko told AFP.
Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering related to the 1990s arms deal struck when he was deputy president to the country’s second black president Thabo Mbeki.
He has also been accused of overseeing the mass looting of state assets during his nine-year presidency.
In July, Zuma faced questioning by Raymond Zondo, a senior judge, mandated to investigate separate allegations of “state capture” in South Africa during his presidency.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over from Zuma, has vowed to tackle deep-seated corruption but faces opposition from senior powerful ANC members, many of whom remain Zuma allies.
(With Inputs from Agencies)