Zuma says forced to sell socks to pay legal fees

Former President Jacob Zuma waves to supporters after his appearance in the High Court where he faces charges that include fraud, corruption and racketeering, in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on Friday. — Reuters

JOHANNESBURG — Scandal-plagued South Africa's former President Jacob Zuma said on Friday he is so broke he has had to sell clothes to raise legal fees to fight a corruption case.

Facing corruption charges for a case dating back to the 1990s, Zuma, 77, was in court this week seeking a permanent stay of prosecution.

He is accused of taking bribes from French defense company Thales during his time as a provincial economy minister and later as deputy president of the African National Congress (ANC) in the 1990s.

He and Thales deny the charges.

"I have to sell hats, socks to pay for legal fees," he told his supporters gathered outside the courthouse in the southeastern city of Pietermaritzburg

In December a court ruled that Zuma, who was ousted last year over multiple graft scandals, should foot his own legal fees.

"They don't want me to have lawyers, they are ganging up on me, but I won't cry, I am not scared of anything," said Zuma referring to Cyril Ramaphosa's government.

He said he has had to let go of white lawyers that previously represented him.

"I am left with black lawyers because they will do the work even" if he has not yet paid them.

His lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane told the court that "Mr. Zuma remains here, squeezed out of everything he could do. He has no finances, the State has squeezed that".

Zuma has been charged with 16 counts of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a multi-million-dollar arms deal dating back to before he took office in 2009.

Both Zuma and Thales are asking the high court in the southeastern city of Pietermaritzburg to drop the charges.

The ruling is expected at a date yet to be set. — AFP