Forced to resign three years ago in the face of a litany of corruption scandals, embattled former South African president Jacob Zuma is due back in court on Monday in a graft case dating back more than two decades.
But whether 79-year-old Zuma will answer his accusers is the big question.
The court in Pietermaritzburg is examining 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to a 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military gear from five European arms firms for 30 billion rand — equal to almost $5.0 billion at the time.
He has lodged a string of unsuccessful series of appeals to have the charges dropped.
In the latest development, all his lawyers quit last month, without publicly giving a reason.
Observers speculate the surprise step could be a ploy to seek yet another postponement, ostensibly to allow a new legal team to prepare his defence and further delay the trial.
“It’s almost inevitable that he or his new team (if there is one) will ask for a postponement — and be granted,” said James Grant, a South African lawyer who is not linked to the case.
Zuma’s repeated refusal to testify to the commission has led to a judicial stalemate.
But he has been named directly or indirectly by more than 30 witnesses before the panel, whose findings may be used for investigation and prosecution purposes.