South Africa court officially drops Zuma charges

JOHANNESBURG – A South African court on Tuesday formally withdrew corruption charges against South Africa's Jacob Zuma, who is expected to become president after an election this month, local media said.

 

A judge at a Durban High Court formally endorsed a decision by prosecutors to drop the case against Zuma after discovering that senior officials had manipulated the legal process, SAPA news agency said. The ruling lasted less than five minutes.

Zuma’s ANC party is widely expected to win an April 22 election and choose him as president of Africa’s biggest economic power.

The decision gives Zuma a big boost ahead of the election and ends a legal battle that raised doubts over his ability to govern, but analysts and the opposition note charges were dropped on a technicality so suspicion will continue to dog him.

SAPA said Zuma, dressed in a pin-stripe suit and accompanied by his daughter, smiled after the judge said all charges against him had been withdrawn.

The National Prosecuting Authority said on Monday it had no choice but to scrap the 8-year-old allegations against Zuma after it uncovered "abuses" of the legal processes by allies of former president Thabo Mbeki, Zuma’s arch foe.

The opposition Democratic Alliance party said the NPA had been "hopelessly compromised" and filed an application with a high court on Tuesday for a judicial review into the decision, a DA statement said.

"(The NPA) has become a political tool in the hands of the Jacob Zuma faction of the ANC," Zille told SAfm radio. "The constitution and the rule of law is at stake here."

NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali said a review was not necessary.

Zuma, who has denied wrongdoing, had faced charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering.

He is due to address supporters outside the court in his first public comments since charges were dropped, and will then hold a news conference in Durban.

The case has been closely followed by investors looking for political stability in Africa’s biggest economy and has raised concerns about the independence of South Africa’s judiciary.

The ANC said on Monday the decision to drop charges proved Zuma had been the victim of a political conspiracy.

Zille’s DA party along with the new Congress of the People (COPE) party formed by ANC defectors are hoping to attract voters uneasy with the ruling party’s record on corruption.