- High Court found decision to drop graft case “irrational”
- Chief prosecutor says appeal has nothing to do with politics
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and the National Prosecuting Authority said they will ask for permission to appeal the High Court’s ruling that found that the state agency’s decision to drop a corruption case against the South African leader seven years ago was wrong.
The request to have the Supreme Court of Appeals review the judgment, which opened the way for 783 charges to be reinstated against Zuma, was because of legal reasons and hadn’t been discussed with Zuma’s lawyers, said Shaun Abrahams, the national director of the NPA. The case against Zuma was dropped a month before he became president.
“I wish to make it absolutely clear that I will carry out my duties and my obligations in all cases irrespective of who the suspect is or who the accused may be, without fear, favor or prejudice,” Abrahams told reporters in Pretoria, the capital, on Monday. Zuma said in a statement that the “court erred in several respects in its decision.”
The ruling that dropping the case was an “irrational decision” added to pressure on the ruling African National Congress, which is fighting off increased calls from opposition parities, churches and civil-rights organizations to dismiss Zuma as the country prepares for local government elections on Aug. 3. The main opposition party called the prosecutors’ decision to appeal the judgment a “blatant delaying tactic” to protect Zuma.
Prosecutors spent eight years probing allegations that Zuma took 4.07 million rand ($261,000) in bribes from arms dealers, and had brought charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering against him.
In April 2009, then-acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe decided to drop the charges on grounds that taped phone calls indicated that the chief investigator had been using the case to frustrate Zuma’s efforts to win control of the ruling party from Thabo Mbeki. Zuma, who was elected ANC leader in 2007, became president of South Africa in May 2009 and won a second and final term in 2014.
On March 31, South Africa’s top court found that Zuma, had “failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution” over his handling of a graft ombudsman report into security upgrades at his private rural residence. The Public Protector had found that he and his family had unduly benefited from the improvements. Zuma said he would abide by the court’s order to pay a proportion of the money.
The decision to appeal “is a blatant delaying tactic to shield Jacob Zuma,” Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, said in an e-mailed statement. “President Zuma will eventually have his day in court, and justice will prevail, no matter how many tricks and delaying tactics are used by the state.”
“President Zuma believes that the appeal raises important issues of law and
fact and also believes that the appeal has reasonable prospects of success,” his office said in the statement.
Abrahams said he had no intention of trying to delay the graft case against Zuma.
“If there is any suggestion that I may have succumbed to any pressure in making my decision, I can assure the public today that is absolutely ridiculous and completely unfounded,” he said. “No decision will please all of the people yet it is not in my job to seek to please anybody or make popular decisions.”