Zuma faces 800 kickback charges
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.