South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma will miss the resumption on Monday of his trial for alleged corruption on the grounds of ill health, his lawyer said.
“There was a medical emergency which took place in the past few hours,” his lawyer Dali Mpofu announced in court, giving no further details.
Zuma, who turns 80 on Tuesday, is accused of taking bribes from French defence giant Thales. He faces 16 counts of fraud, graft and racketeering over the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and equipment from five European arms firms.
Thales has also been charged with corruption and money laundering. Both the French firm and Zuma deny any wrongdoing.
The closely-followed trial started in May 2021 after repeated postponements as Zuma’s legal team battled to have the charges dropped. It was set to resume on Monday with witness testimony after Zuma failed in a fresh bid to derail proceedings.
In October, he sought to have lead prosecutor Billy Downer dropped from the case, accusing him of bias. He contended Downer leaked confidential documents to the media. But the Supreme Court of Appeal last month ruled against him, saying his petition had “no reasonable prospect of success.”
Zuma was president from 2009 to 2018, but was forced to step down by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) as graft scandals surrounding his government brewed into a political storm.
Last year he was given a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court after refusing to testify before a panel probing financial sleaze and cronyism that proliferated under his presidency. His jailing sparked riots that descended into looting and left more than 350 dead in the worst violence since the advent of South Africa’s democracy.
He was released on health grounds two months into the term.