The arms deal corruption trial involving former President Jacob Zuma and French arms company Thales is edging closer to kicking off at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

This comes after the court dismissed Thales’ attempt to challenge the racketeering charges it faces, with costs.

The court’s ruling, handed down on Thursday could see the case which has dragged on for close to two decades finally going to trial after the high court’s decision to reject the bid by Thales to have racketeering charges removed from the charges.

This comes after the NPA had argued in October that it had charged Thales with racketeering as the company had knowingly participated in a scheme to bribe Zuma in return for his political influence and protection.

Sipho Ngwema, NPA spokesperson said they welcomed the ruling, adding that “we now look forward to the criminal hearing”.

Former head of state Zuma is accused of receiving several bribes during the procurement process of the arms around 1998 and 1999, a time during which he was MEC for Economic Development in KwaZulu-Natal.

Among the bribes that Zuma is alleged to have received is a R500 000 annual retainer that was allegedly paid by Thales through his then financial advisor Schabir Schaik, whose Nkobi Holdings was a BEE partner to Thales in the deal.

Zuma has throughout the years maintained that he is innocent of the corruption charges levelled against him, often saying that the charges were politically motivated.

Last month, Zuma’s eldest son Edward Zuma told Independent Media that the NPA was “wasting our time” and that the NPA “has never been prepared from day one when they charged Zuma”.

Edward Zuma at the time said “They have never had a case, they do not have a case, they will never have a case. They’ve never been prepared; it’s all a political ploy to discredit the former president. So I cannot take the NPA seriously any more because they’re a disgrace to this country”.