South Africa's Zuma appeal against graft charges to be heard in open court

October 12, 2016 7:09 AM EDT

South African president Jacob Zuma addresses members of the media and the respective delegations during a joint news conference with his counterpart, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, in Nairobi, Kenya, October 11, 2016. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on Wednesday told President Jacob Zuma's lawyers to argue their case against the reinstatement of corruption charges against him in open court, granting the head of state a brief reprieve.

Zuma is appealing a ruling by the High Court in April ordering a review of a National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decision to set aside hundreds of corruption charges against Zuma. That decision allowed him to run for president in 2009.

Legal experts had expected the SCA to issue a new ruling on whether Zuma can challenge the charges but instead said the president's lawyers should first argue their case in court. The court did not set a date for the appeal hearing.

The NPA's own attempt to appeal that ruling was denied by the Constitutional Court last week.

The hundreds of corruption charges relate to a major government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance party said in a statement that the appeals court decision to hear arguments in court rather than issue a ruling was unusual and gave Zuma another delay from having his day in court.

"President Zuma will one day have his day in court, and we are one step closer to that today," the party said.

The prospect of Zuma's corruption charges being reinstated follows a constitutional court judgment against him in March. The court said he breached the constitution by refusing to refund some of the 240 million rand ($17 million) of state money spent on refurbishing his private residence.

Zuma has since repaid some of the money.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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