A South African court granted former President Jacob Zuma’s request for a delay in his arms deal corruption trial on Tuesday, and adjourned proceedings for three weeks.

Zuma is accused of receiving kickbacks over a $2 billion arms deal from the 1990s. He pleaded not guilty in May to charges including corruption, fraud and money laundering.

He has evaded prosecution for more than a decade, and portrayed himself as the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

Efforts to hold him to account are seen as a test of the country’s ability to hold powerful politicians to account. 

“The trial is adjourned to 10-13 August 2021,” Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Piet Koen said. He did not give the reasons why he allowed the delay.

Zuma has started a 15-month sentence for contempt of court. 

He appeared before the Pietermaritzburg court virtually but stayed silent while his legal team argued that a postponement should be granted so that he could appear in person.

Zuma’s jailing this month triggered some of the worst unrest of the post-apartheid era. There were fears his latest court appearance could lead to a flare-up of violent protests from his support base. That has not materialised so far. 

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