Ex-president Jacob Zuma returned to court on Monday for the resumption of a long-running graft trial, with proceedings held online in a bid to forestall another wave of the deadly unrest that swept South Africa after he was jailed in a separate case.
Security forces threw a cordon around the High Court in the southeastern city of Pietermaritzburg, the capital of Zuma’s home region of KwaZulu-Natal, where loyalists have previously gathered in rowdy shows of support.
The measures were later eased to allow street access after the area was deserted.
Zuma, 79, faces 16 charges of fraud, graft, and racketeering related to the 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats, and equipment from five European arms firms when he was deputy president.
He is accused of taking bribes from one of the firms, French defence giant Thales, which has been charged with corruption and money laundering.
The trial started in May after numerous postponements and delays, as Zuma’s legal team battled to have the charges dropped.
An emotionless Zuma made a virtual appearance from prison in the nearby town of Estcourt, sitting on a black office chair in a white-walled room, clad in a black suit, white shirt, and red tie.
He had proclaimed his innocence when he appeared in person for the opening in May. Thales has also pleaded not guilty.
On June 29, Zuma was separately found guilty of contempt of South Africa’s top court for snubbing graft investigators probing his time as president. He was jailed on July 8.