Former president Jacob Zuma mulls seeking review of NPA decision to prosecute

By Amogelang Mbatha

(Bloomberg) – Former South African President Jacob Zuma is considering seeking a review of the decision by prosecutors to make him stand trial on allegations including corruption and fraud.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

The National Director of Public Prosecutions on Friday announced that they will pursue 16 charges against Zuma after he failed to convince them of why he shouldn’t be indicted. The case, shelved nine years ago amid allegations of political interference, has compounded Zuma’s dramatic fall from power after he was forced to step down as president last month and replaced by new ruling party leader, Cyril Ramaphosa. A commission of inquiry is also probing undue influence by Zuma’s friends the Guptas over his administration.

Zuma and his legal team were informed by prosecutors in a “terse” one-page response that didn’t clearly explain the rationale behind their decision, Zuma’s lawyer Michael Hulley said in a text message on Saturday. “In the circumstances, the likely course of action would be to take the decision of the NDPP on review. This decision will, however, only be made after careful consideration and consultation with Mr. Zuma.”

The move to pursue the charges came after the Supreme Court of Appeal in October upheld a lower court ruling that the decision to drop the charges in 2009 was “irrational” and that the political considerations that had tainted the investigation were irrelevant to the integrity of the case. While the order paved the way for a trial to proceed, prosecutors allowed Zuma to make representations before making their final decision.

‘Reasonable Prospects’
National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams speaks during a media briefing in Pretoria, South Africa, May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

“I am of the view that there are reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution of Mr. Zuma,” chief prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told reporters in Pretoria, the capital.

NPA officials in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province will now make the necessary arrangements for Zuma to appear in court to face 12 charges of fraud, one of racketeering, two of corruption and one of money laundering.

The NPA spent eight years investigating allegations that Zuma, 75, took 4.07 million rand ($341,000) in bribes from arms dealers. It abandoned the case months before he became president, saying taped phone calls indicated that chief investigator Leonard McCarthy may have used the allegations to frustrate Zuma’s efforts to win control of the African National Congress.

Zuma, who was also implicated in a succession of other scandals, resigned as president on Feb. 14 under pressure from the ANC following its election of a new leadership in December. He has denied wrongdoing.

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