Jacob Zuma to face corruption charges after ruling

South African court reinstates 783 counts of fraud, racketeering and money-laundering

South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma. South Africa’s appeals court has ruled that Zuma must face a range of corruption charges. File photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma. South Africa’s appeals court has ruled that Zuma must face a range of corruption charges. File photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

 

South Africa’s appeals court has ruled that the country’s president, Jacob Zuma, must face a range of corruption charges that were controversially dropped by prosecutors shortly before he first took office.

On Friday morning, the supreme court of appeal declared that the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) decision in 2009 to set aside 783 counts of fraud, racketeering and money-laundering linked to a multi-billion-euro arms deal was irrational.

The then acting national director of public prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe, based his decision on secretly recorded phone conversations between prosecutors and police produced by Mr Zuma’s lawyers. He said they showed “political meddling” in the case.

The charges stemmed from an allegedly corrupt business relationship that Mr Zuma had with Durban businessman Schabir Shaik. In 2005, the latter was found guilty of soliciting bribes from a French arms company for Mr Zuma’s benefit.

Mr Zuma and other officials have been accused of taking kickbacks in the late 1990s from other companies seeking to sell to the government fighter jets, navy ships and weapons.

Mr Zuma has always maintained his innocence and legal efforts by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) to have the charges reinstated have been opposed by his lawyers at every juncture.

Legal wrangling

After years of legal wrangling, Pretoria high court ruled in 2016 that Mr Zuma should face the corruption charges. The president and NPA then asked the supreme court of appeal for the right to challenge the ruling.

The court granted Mr Zuma and the NPA that right, but came to the same conclusion as the high court. As it stands, the NPA is obliged to reinstate the charges.

But Mr Zuma is expected to seek leave to make new representations to the NPA on why the charges should be set aside, further delaying matters. However, he can no longer use the recorded phone conversations as part of his reasoning.

According to a report by South Africa’s Eyewitness News, Mr Zuma is expected to rely on recent revelations that a report by auditors KPMG used in Mr Shaik’s trail is flawed.

The president might also seek leave to appeal Friday’s ruling to the constitutional court, but experts say such an application has little chance of success.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane welcomed the ruling, saying he will write to the NPA to insist “that Jacob Zuma is served with an indictment and appears in court at the soonest available date”.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Friday that the former liberation movement would continue to support Mr Zuma.