Zuma faces 800 kick­back charges

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - AFP

JO­HAN­NES­BURG: South Africa’s Supreme Court of Ap­peal has ruled that Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma can face pros­e­cu­tion on al­most 800 charges of cor­rup­tion re­lat­ing to a 1990s arms deal.

Mr Zuma had lodged a chal­lenge at the court af­ter a lower court de­cided last year to re­in­state charges that were pre­vi­ously dropped by pros­e­cu­tors. The Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity must now de­cide whether to pur­sue a pros­e­cu­tion.

“The rea­sons for dis­con­tin­u­ing the pros­e­cu­tion ... do not bear scru­tiny,” Supreme Court judge Eric Leach said, de­liv­er­ing a rul­ing that the pres­i­dency de­scribed as “dis­ap­point­ing”.

The op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Al­liance party has fought since 2009 to re­ac­ti­vate 783 charges re­lat­ing to con­tro­ver­sial postapartheid mil­i­tary con­tracts that have dogged Mr Zuma for much of his time in govern­ment.

The Pres­i­dent, who is ac­cused of cor­rup­tion, fraud, mon­ey­laun­der­ing and rack­e­teer­ing, has al­ways in­sisted he is in­no­cent of the al­le­ga­tions that date back to when he was ris­ing through the African Na­tional Con­gress party.

Mr Zuma, who is on an of­fi­cial visit to Zam­bia, could con­test the rul­ing by ap­peal to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court.

“The de­ci­sion of the Supreme Court of Ap­peal to­day, whilst dis­ap­point­ing, was much an­tic­i­pated,” his of­fice said.

Mr Zuma, 75, and other govern­ment of­fi­cials were ac­cused of tak­ing kick­backs from the $6.3 bil­lion pur­chase of fighter jets, pa­trol boats and other arms man­u­fac­tured by five Euro­pean firms, in­clud­ing Bri­tish mil­i­tary equip­ment maker BAE Sys­tems and French com­pany Thales.

In 2005 Mr Zuma’s for­mer fi­nan­cial ad­viser Sch­abir Shaik was con­victed for or­gan­is­ing bribes in ex­change for mil­i­tary hard­ware con­tracts and sen­tenced to 15 years in prison. He was later re­leased on med­i­cal pa­role.

The Supreme Court rul­ing could in­ten­sify calls for Mr Zuma to re­sign and cast a shadow over an ANC con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber that will elect his suc­ces­sor.

The case is the lat­est in a string of po­lit­i­cal and le­gal scan­dals that have haunted the Pres­i­dent but failed to shake his grip on power. He was or­dered last year to re­pay $30 mil­lion of pub­lic funds for up­grades to his per­sonal res­i­dence that judges said showed he had dis­re­spected the con­sti­tu­tion.


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