South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal will rule on Friday on whether prosecutors should reinstate bribery and corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma after a lower court found that the decision to drop the case was “irrational.”
Zuma’s lawyers conceded in a Sept. 14 hearing that the National Prosecuting Authority’s reasoning in dropping the case in 2009 was wrong but argued that the president should be allowed to make representations before a new decision to proceed with 783 charges relating to an arms deal is taken. The opposition Democratic Alliance asked the court to order holding an immediate trial.
The decision comes just two months before the ruling party elects a new leader to replace Zuma, who’s has defeated several attempts to remove him from office amid a succession of scandals. A trial may also coincide with campaigning ahead of a national election in 2019 and follows a Constitutional Court ruling last year that the president violated his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer funds spent on his private home.
Reinstating the charges could undermine the campaign of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the president’s preferred successor for the leadership of the African National Congress in December, and possibly lead to him leaving the national presidency before his term ends in 2019, according to Susan Booysen, a political science professor at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Governance.
“He has got his proxy or proxies in the race and of course it would reflect on them, because it would put more pressure on them to continue to take clear stands against corruption at a presidential level,” she said by phone on Thursday.
Dlamini-Zuma, the former chairwoman of the African Union Commission and Zuma’s ex-wife, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa are currently seen as the front-runners for the ANC’s top position.
The case was scrapped a month before Zuma, 75, became president in 2009 after recorded phone calls indicated the investigator’s actions may have been politically motivated. Zuma could still fight any decision to charge him in the Constitutional Court.
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