South African ex-President Zuma's legal team quits ahead of corruption trial

FILE PHOTO: Former South African President Jacob Zuma attends the memorial service for Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini in Nongoma, South Africa, March 18, 2021. Phill Magakoe/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Former South African President Jacob Zuma's legal team has quit less than a month before he goes on trial on corruption charges, local publication News 24 said on Wednesday.

Zuma and French arms company Thales are due in court on May 17 on charges related to a $2 billion arms deal from the 1990s, when he served as deputy president.

Zuma is being tried on 16 charges of racketeering, fraud, corruption and money laundering. He denies wrongdoing in the case. Thales has said it has no knowledge of any transgressions committed by its staff over the awarding of the contracts.

News 24 said the firm representing Zuma, Mabuza Attorneys, had filed a formal withdrawal notice with the Pietermartizburg High Court on Wednesday morning. The firm had declined to give reasons for the withdrawal, the news agency said.

Mabuza Attorneys, and Zuma's lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane, did not answer telephone calls and text messages from Reuters seeking confirmation. A spokesman for Zuma also did not respond.

The 16 charges Zuma faces were reinstated in March 2018, a month after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party kicked Zuma out of office after a presidency tainted by graft allegations and sovereign credit-rating downgrades.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Peter Graff)

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