South African Prosecutors Justify Decision to Drop Zuma Charges

  • Integrity of investigation was compromised, High Court hears
  • Zuma denies allegations he took bribes from arms dealers

Lawyers for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority argued Wednesday that its decision to drop graft charges against President Jacob Zuma was justified because the integrity of the investigation had been irreparably compromised.

The NPA spent eight years investigating allegations that Zuma, 73, took 4.07 million rand ($260,000) in bribes from arms dealers and charged him with corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering. It abandoned the case in 2009, saying taped phone calls indicated that chief investigator Leonard McCarthy used the case against Zuma to frustrate his efforts to win control of the ruling African National Congress from then-President Thabo Mbeki.

“McCarthy was not some maverick on the outside of the NPA,” Hilton Epstein, a lawyer for the prosecuting authority, told the North Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. “To all intent and purpose he was the NPA. You can’t have a constitutional democracy unless you have an independent prosecuting authority. We cannot allow the pursuit of one individual to trump the independence that we require of the NPA.”

The main opposition Democratic Alliance argued that the merits of the case against Zuma remained undisputed, and filed a lawsuit in the court that aims to have the case reopened. Zuma denies any wrongdoing.

The case, which is being broadcast live by Johannesburg-based broadcaster ENCA, is continuing, and the court hasn’t indicated when it will pass judgment.

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