S.Africa court rules Zuma should face almost 800 graft charges

April 29, 2016 5:28 pm
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The charges, relating to a multi-billion dollar arms deal, were dropped by the chief state prosecutor in a move that cleared the way for Zuma to be elected president just weeks later/AFP
The charges, relating to a multi-billion dollar arms deal, were dropped by the chief state prosecutor in a move that cleared the way for Zuma to be elected president just weeks later/AFP

, PRETORIA, South Africa, Apr 29 – South African President Jacob Zuma should face almost 800 corruption charges that were dropped in 2009, a judge said Friday, piling further pressure on the embattled leader.

The charges, relating to a multi-billion dollar arms deal, were dropped by the chief state prosecutor in a move that cleared the way for Zuma to be elected president just weeks later.

Overview
  • The prosecutor had justified dropping the charges by saying that tapped phone calls between senior officials in then-president Thabo Mbeki's administration showed political interference in the case.
  • The recordings, which became known as the "spy tapes", were kept secret but finally released in 2014 to the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), after a five-year legal battle.
  • DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Friday's court ruling was a major blow against the president, who has faced months of criticism over various corruption scandals and the country's dire economic outlook.

“The decision… to discontinue the charges against Mr Zuma is irrational and should be reviewed and set aside,” Pretoria High Court judge Aubrey Ledwaba said.

“Mr Zuma should face the charges as applied.”

The prosecutor had justified dropping the charges by saying that tapped phone calls between senior officials in then-president Thabo Mbeki’s administration showed political interference in the case.

The recordings, which became known as the “spy tapes”, were kept secret but finally released in 2014 to the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), after a five-year legal battle.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Friday’s court ruling was a major blow against the president, who has faced months of criticism over various corruption scandals and the country’s dire economic outlook.

“Today is a great victory for the rule of law. Ultimately Jacob Zuma must face prosecution,” Maimane said after attending the court hearing.

“We are deeply, deeply delighted. Jacob Zuma must have… his day in court.”

The DA called for the National Prosecuting Authority to immediately revive the 783 charges of corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering dating back to 1999.

But the legal wrangling is set to continue, with the ruling likely to go to appeal.

“These charges were formally withdrawn… and as such there is no pending litigation before court against President Zuma,” the presidency said in a statement.

“The President has noted the decision of the court and will give consideration to the judgement and its consequences.”

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