Zuma Graft Charges Saga Heads for South Africa’s Top Court

  • High Court said prosecutors couldn’t appeal Zuma graft ruling
  • National Prosecuting Authority seeks clarity on its powers

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority said it will approach the nation’s top court in a bid to overturn a High Court finding that its decision to drop graft charges against President Jacob Zuma seven years ago was irrational and unlawful.

“The NPA has decided to apply for leave to appeal directly to the Constitutional Court against the judgment,” the NPA said in an e-mailed statement on Friday. “A further appeal to the Constitutional Court was inevitable. This matter raises constitutional issues.”

Prosecutors spent eight years probing allegations that Zuma took 4.07 million rand ($284,000) in bribes from arms dealers and brought 783 charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering against him. They dropped the case a month before Zuma became president in May 2009, saying taped phone calls indicated the chief investigator had tried to frustrate his efforts to win control of the ruling African National Congress.

After the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, challenged the decision, the High Court ruled April 29 that the decision to drop the case was irrational, a finding that opened the way for the charges to be reinstated. While the NPA said it needed the Supreme Court of Appeals to provide clarity on its powers, the Pretoria-based High Court denied it permission to appeal its ruling. Under South African law, higher courts may be approached directly to review a case, but they are under no obligation to do so.

Zuma, 74, won a second and final term as president in 2014. On March 31, South Africa’s Constitutional Court found he had “failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution” for refusing to abide by a directive by the graft ombudsman to repay state money spent on upgrading his private rural residence.

The DA accused the NPA of abusing the judicial system and taxpayers’ money in a bid to shield Zuma from facing justice.

“The case against President Zuma is not defective and must proceed without delay,” James Selfe, the chairman of the DA’s federal executive committee, said in an e-mailed statement. “We are optimistic that the Constitutional Court will dismiss this petition.”

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