A South African court ordered the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma after he failed to show up for his corruption trial, signalling a more aggressive approach by the authorities to tackle corruption. The rand strengthened.
Cyril Ramaphosa pledged to address graft when he took over as president in February 2018, but to date there have been no high-profile arrests despite a slew of allegations about the looting of state funds during his predecessor Zuma’s nine-year rule.
Demands for justice have been a constant refrain in the nation’s media and on radio talks shows.
Judge Dhayanithie Pillay ordered Zuma’s detention after finding that his lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, failed to provide sufficient evidence to show why his client couldn’t attend Tuesday’s hearing.
Mantsha said Zuma is receiving medical treatment abroad, after having surgery last month.
“A warrant of arrest for accused one, Mr. Zuma, is issued,” Pillay said. She stayed execution of the warrant until 6 May, when the trial is scheduled to resume, to allow his defence team to convince the court that he is ill.
The rand extended gains, adding as much as 1% to R14.73 per dollar.
Zuma is facing 16 charges ranging from corruption to racketeering for allegedly taking bribes from arms dealers, including Thales SA, dating back to the 1990s. Zuma and Thales deny any wrongdoing.
More than R500 billion ($34 billion) was stolen from state companies and government departments during Zuma’s rule, according to Ramaphosa.